- World Cup Spe­cial - 1899 De­but of Soc­cer in CR

of Soc­cer in Costa Rica

Howler Magazine - - Featured Contents - by José Ger­ardo Suárez Monge and Karl Kahler

The game of soc­cer was ap­par­ently in­tro­duced to Costa Rica in 1899, judg­ing from this news item on July 4 of that year in the news­pa­per La Opinión:

"On Sun­day we were wit­ness­ing [the game of Foot-Ball] in la Sa­bana, played by mem­bers of our ed­u­cated so­ci­ety. It ap­pears to be a dis­trac­tion that is both hy­gienic and a good deal of fun. 'Very Well!' " (The last words were printed in English, ap­par­ently be­cause the game came from English-speak­ing coun­tries.)

An up­date fol­lowed on July 6 in La Prensa Li­bre, not­ing the dan­gers that this game posed to passersby:

"Good and con­ve­nient is the game of balls for chil­dren be­cause it, more than any­thing, de­vel­ops their mus­cu­la­ture and gives life to their or­gan­ism. But to play these games some place should be found like the plazas or La Sa­bana, and not pub­lic streets where there are many passersby. We know that on Tues­day there were var­i­ous peo­ple hit by these balls. The po­lice should take care of this."

The press went on to em­pha­size the dan­ger­ous threat to pub­lic or­der posed by this new-fan­gled game of kick­ball:

"[Again] we re­fer to the po­lice the groups of chil­dren that form in pub­lic streets to play ball, with the im­mi­nent dan­ger to the noses of passersby; at the cor­ner of La Granja it was im­pos­si­ble to pass; it is ap­par­ent that the chil­dren from those parts have left school

"It ap­pears to be a dis­trac­tion that is both hy­gienic and a good deal of fun."

to at­tend the game; what big matches are played there."

By Au­gust 1899 the press was not­ing the in­creased so­phis­ti­ca­tion of these new­bies to this sport:

"[The game] of [foot-ball] that took place Sun­day at la Sa­bana demon­strates that the sports­men have be­come big­ger fans of this en­ter­tain­ment and have more skill at this sport. [In English:] Oy yes, very well, all right. - God save the queen."

One of the great dif­fer­ences be­tween soc­cer and other sports of the time was that it leveled the play­ing field be­tween the rich and the work­ing class -- un­like, say, polo.

It was a game that stu­dents from all over the coun­try who at­tended the Liceo de Costa Rica, the coun­try's pri­mary ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, could take back to their home­towns. This grad­u­ally turned fut­ból into a na­tional sport.

On Christ­mas Day 1899, foot­ball got a boost when Pres­i­dent Rafael Igle­sias Cas­tro at­tended a game be­tween a Costa Ri­can and an English team, giv­ing the game a new sense of le­git­i­macy. (In case you're won­der­ing, the English won.)

Soc­cer, one cor­re­spon­dent ar­gued at the time, was a more ed­u­cated, civ­i­lized form of pub­lic en­ter­tain­ment than bull­fight­ing or spec­ta­cles with bar­baric masks ac­com­pa­nied by heavy con­sump­tion of al­co­hol.

The sport took off, and Costa Rica never looked back.

A 1950 match be­tween Ala­jue­lense and Boca Ju­niors at the Na­tional Sta­dium ended in a 1-1 tie.

The old Na­tional Sta­dium, 1960.

Ala­jue­lense wel­comes Botafogo of Brazil in a 1957 match at the Na­tional Sta­dium.A game played in Bar­rio Mex­ico in the early 1920s, with Pres­i­dent Julio Acosto Gar­cía in at­ten­dance.

Costa Rica's new Na­tional Sta­dium in La Sa­bana Park, San José.

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