Fútbol (soccer) is by far the most important spectator sport. It is almost a national passion, especially for men (although girls an women do play and show some interest). Costa Rica's most memorable soccer appearance was at the 1990 Men's World Cup in Italy, when the national team made the quarterfinals. The second time that the national team qualified for the World Cup was in the 2002 games held in Japan/Korea. In 2005 they qualified again for the World Cup 2006 in Germany.
The regular season is from August to May, and the games are played at 11am on Sunday mornings and sometimes on Wednesday evenings. Competition is fierce, and fan rivalry does not support the notion that ticos are friendly. They can get really wild during games!
There are 12 teams in the First Division. At the end of each season, the 12th team is relegated to the Second Division, while the top team in the Second Division is promoted to the First Division. In addition, the 11th team in the First division has to play against the runner-up in the Second Division to determine which one of these plays in the First Division the next season. The top teams in the regular season than play another championship in June or July, so there are matches almost year round.
At the ends of both the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons, La Liga, the team from Alajuela, won the championship, in 2005 it was Saprissa, the team from San José. La Liga and Saprissa at or near the top of the league for most of the past years. You can watch Saprissa play at home in the suburb of Tibás (any cab deriver knows it). tickets are usually available on the day of the game. The more expensive tickets give you seats in the shade (sombra) with a more sedate crowd; the cheapest tickets are in the direct sun (sol) with a wilder crowd of fans.
Other spectator sports (though not even close rivals to soccer) are basket-ball and bullfighting. In Costa Rica, the bull is not killed, so international matadors don't bother to come here. Local bullfights are held at various times of year; in San José the main season is from Christmas to just after New Year's Day. The popular Latin American sport of cockfighting is illegal.
Pictures by Tico Times, Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Alajuelense. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
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