Perhaps you only follow football every four years. Perhaps you come from Italy / Holland / USA / Jamaica / Chile / China / Greece / Ghana / Ireland [Delete as appropriate]. Perhaps you are disappointed with your own country and you are looking for someone else to support. While I admit that other lovable small nation underdogs are available to you (cough Iceland cough), could I persuade you to consider Costa Rica again?
Much has happened since the last time I wrote about football four years ago, but that post may still apply. Our team is very similar, but four years older, in fact, we have the oldest team on the competition. After making it all the way to the Quarter Finals and getting eliminated on penalties by Holland, there is a feeling that this time we’re not the surprise package we once were, and some of our star players reach the tournament having had pretty poor seasons (yes, I’m looking at you Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz).
But perhaps more importantly, this has been a difficult year to love Costa Rica, and I was fully prepared to write another article altogether. We held our general elections last February, and for a while it looked like we might either elect an outright populist candidate that makes Trump seem like a seasoned statesman, or that we could put in power an ultra-conservative evangelical Christian preacher and singer with no preparation whatsoever. All because the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, bringing us kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and therefore radicalising the voting population into two very different camps.
But disaster was averted, on the second round Costa Ricans chose a young progressive candidate and Sussex University alumni, who won on the basis of being fit for the job and not being a complete disaster in waiting.
So I am back on side with full Tico Football Fever.
Why should you support the Ticos?
- Costa Rica doesn’t have an army, that still seems to surprise people, we keep being proof that in a world that seems to have gone insane you can still advocate demilitarization and peace as national goals.
- The country has been built on social democratic principles with free access to health and education, and cooperatives and social enterprise still an important part of the country. Paraphrasing economist Joseph Stiglitz, Costa Ricans get it right.
- The country continues to have some impressive environmental credentials, last year the country was powered entirely by renewable energy for 300 days, and one quarter of the country is protected as a national park, ensuring our commitment to biodiversity.
- For such a machista (chauvinist) country, we have quite a matriarchal social structure, and we’ve beaten other countries by already having had a woman president.
- We have Las Robertas.
- We said no to populism in favour of a more sane candidate.
- The national team is being managed by Oscar Ramirez, a home-grown coach and one of the heroes of Italia 90.
- We have qualified out of the group stages in two out of our 4 previous world cups, pretty decent record for such a small nation.
- Keylor Navas is not David De Gea, and that is a good thing.
- If we do well, you will see this Tico lose his mind once more.
How to become a Costa Rican supporter
So perhaps I’ve convinced you to give us a go, how do you become a convincing Tico?
First you need to know the history of our name, Tico comes from the linguistic tic (pun intended) favoured by Costa Ricans to add the diminutive “tico” at the end of words, so instead of saying “poquito” (a little) we would say “poquitico”.
To be a Tico is to embrace the “Pura Vida” philosophy, a commitment that brings inner peace, happiness with your lot in life, but coupled with an underlying envy and/or distrust of anyone who rises above their station. Pura Vida means that the president is just a guy, that you like good food, a drink, and a bit of a rest. There is no rush. Enjoy life. Go to the beach on holiday and dance until your feet hurt. Sing to everything like nobody is listening. Commit to a care-free existence of blissful joy, but remember to endlessly complain about the traffic, and be surprised when all of a sudden it rains cats and dogs every day for 7 months, even though it happens every year. Make sure that you complain about everything on Feis and Guatsap.
To be a Tico you need to never say no, when confronted with a situation where anyone in their right mind with utter the deadly two letters, you make excuses that are part of a social signalling that indicates your unwillingness to do something, but you cannot bring yourself to say it. So if a Costa Rican invites you to his house, you will know if they really mean it if they give you a date and time, otherwise it is just a polite way of sending you on your way. We never mean what we say as we hide behind complex layers of meaning. We love giving each other a hard time, and we don’t really mean anything by it. In fact, only your best friends can insult you the hardest, and we swear in imaginative ways.
If you become a Tico you will also be a Mae, the original non-binary non-gendered pronoun. Everyone is a Mae (except your Mum of course, who is sacred).
Everything is a chunche. Everything.
I also hope you like to eat rice and beans for breakfast, you may want to look up Gallo Pinto recipes.
And finally, drink beer (or guaro if you can get it), Imperial is the well-known brand but I favour Pilsen myself.
Dress like a Tico
- Jeans and a polo t-shirt are good for everything.
- Wear the red uniform with pride.
- Buy a chonete and a bandana.
Some things we need to fix
- We’re still a repressed and conservative country, but there are indications that the next generations will be more open.
- We’ve had a dreadful wave of feminicides, it seems like the response by some men when their “superiority” is challenged is to turn violent.
- Surprisingly, there is still racism alive, but things might be getting better, with our first Afro-descendant vice-president, who still gets lots of abuse for being both black and a woman.
- While the Costa Rican public used to be well educated, standards have fallen, and it seems like the same pervasive distrust of evidence and authority has been prevalent.
- While we have good environmental credentials, cleanliness standards have fallen somewhat, with trash on the streets and beaches, as well as having a serious problem with human waste going into rivers.
- Criminality has been increasing as inequality continues to rise.
- Our roads are a disgrace.
But no country is perfect, and we keep getting most things right.
Pura Vida y nos vemos en el Mundial.