Ticos love to play sports, and there's no more popular game in Costa Rica than soccer - although the locals call it football! Nothing rivals Ticos' passion for soccer, and the fans here are some of the most devoted in the world. When I'm hopping around the country, I never have to go far before I see people enjoying a spirited game. I wish I could play, but I'm a little on the small side. Come with me to learn more about two of Costa Rica's most popular teams - Liga and Saprissa.
Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, known locally as Liga and nicknamed the Manudos, is one of Costa Rica's most beloved squads, playing in the Primera División de Costa Rica. If you ask me, they're the best - but I'm a Liga fan, so of course I'm going to say that! The club is more than 80 years old and is based out of downtown Alajuela. They play their home games at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto Scotiabank stadium, and are the best soccer team in the world. Okay, maybe I'm a little biased, but they really are excellent!
This beloved team was also the first Costa Rican squad to win the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) championship in 1986. It is also the only team to never have been relegated from Costa Rica's premier league, and have won at least one major championship every decade since the club was formed in 1919 - see why they're so popular?
There are two soccer seasons in Costa Rica, held each winter and summer. Liga won last year's winter championship - of course - but Heredia won the summer competition. Heredia's team are known locally as the Florenses, but their fans aren't nearly as dedicated as Liga's. It was sheer luck that they won at all...
However, when Liga and the Florenses went head-to-head to see who was truly the better team, Liga emerged victorious as the Super Copa champions! Thousands of fans packed the Estadio Nacional to watch Liga triumph, but I had to listen to the game on the radio - as a tree frog, it's a little tricky for me to buy a ticket!
Up until the 1980s, the mascot of Liga was a mango. However, in the early '80s it was decided that the new club mascot would be a lion, due to the king of the jungle's mighty characteristics. As Liga's biggest fan (figuratively speaking, of course), I still think they should have picked a tree frog, but hey...
Deportivo Saprissa S.A.D., known to Ticos simply as Saprissa or the Morados, is another popular Costa Rican soccer club. Based in San Juan de Tibás in the province of San Jose, Saprissa's home stadium is Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá, one of the largest sporting venues in the country with a capacity of 24,000 spectators.
Saprissa is widely considered to be the most successful Costa Rican soccer team in history - unless you're a Liga fan, that is - as they have won the Primera División de Costa Rica 29 times. Also, Saprissa became the only CONCACAF club to ever compete in the Mundial de Clubes back in 2006, they placed 3rd making them the 3rd best club team in the world. The team is nicknamed "The Purple Monster" due to the color of their uniforms and the loyalty of their fans. Personally, I think that Liga's red and black strip is way better than purple, but not all soccer fans are as discerning as Liga's!
Of course, just watching Liga trounce Saprissa would get a little dull after awhile, and there are quite a few other teams across Costa Rica.
Limón Fútbol Club, nicknamed the Caribeños or Caribbean Whirlwind, made their debut in the Primera División in 1964 and have become one of Costa Rica's most popular teams. They play their games at two stadiums - the Estadio Nuevo de Limón and Estadio Juán Gobán.
Club Sport Cartaginés Deportiva S.A., also known as the Brumosos, represent Cartago province and play their home games at Estadio Jose Rafael Fello Meza Ivankovich in Cartago. The Brumosos are the oldest soccer team in the country, having been founded in 1906.
Puntarenas Fútbol Club, S.A.D., who are referred to by their fans as the Chuchequeros, are a Unión de Clubes de Fútbol de la Primera División team that plays at the Estadio Municipal de Puntarenas Miguel Ángel "Lito" Pérez Treacy. This stadium is known locally as the "Pressure Cooker," due to the high temperatures players have to contend with during the summer season.
While you're here on a Costa Rica vacation, why not check out a game at one of the country's many stadiums and see what all the fuss is about?
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