Campeonato Nacional De Primera División
Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, San José, Costa Rica
When thinking about great footballing rivals, we think of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Celtic and Rangers, Man Utd and Liverpool. Down in Costa Rica, they have their very own 'Classico Nacional': Deportivo Saprissa of San Jose and their local neighbours Alajuela.
With the game being one of the highlights of the Costa Rican league season, I was a little concerned about ticket availability. Dave and myself decided to head to the Estadio Saprissa the day before to see if we could get tickets. As our unmarked taxi pulled up outside the stadium my ticket fears were lifted. A few ticket touts saw our pasty white gringo skin and all of a sudden we were having reels of tickets waved in our faces through the taxi window. The man to left was offering tickets worth 2000 colones for 5000, the man to our right tickets of 4000 for 5000. With a mark up of just over a pound, our man to the right won our custom.
Arriving at the ground a good few hours before kick off, the streets were full of fans wearing Saprissa team colours- purple with white trim. Nothing says masculinity like a beefcake in a purple shirt with 'Bimbo' slapped across their chest. As with the games in El Salvador, the streets were full of people selling food and team merchandise, the most notable items being a mexican wrestling style mask and horns made from actual bull horns complete with hair.
As we made our way in the ground, I had the usual frisk from riot police which I'd become accustomed to back in El Salvador. Once again the gentle officer took away my rechargeable batteries just in case I decided to throw them at anyone. With almost an hour and a half before kick off the terrace behind the goal was brimming with Tikos awaiting the arrival of their heroes. As the 'Purple Monsters' came out of the tunnel, latin american football fever kicked in. With the stand smothered in banners, fans held huge Saprissa flags high whilst the air was filled with flares, fireworks and smoke billowing across the terraces. A guy with a drum and a megaphone lead the chanting and jumping. As the whole end leaped up and down the concrete terrace underneath me began to shake and move beneath my feet. I was genuinely quite concerned of the terrace collapsing, but I cast my doubts aside as I had a copy of my insurance certificate on me, safe in the knowledge that San Jose has one of the best hospitals in central america.
The game began slowly with Saprissa and Alajuela sharing possession. Towards the end of the first half 10 minutes of Saprissa pressure earnt our hosts a goal. With a diagonal cross finding the striker, he took control, paused unnecessarily and slotted the ball home through the defenders leg and the keepers arms. The stadium erupted. The second half continued in this fashion with Saprissa scoring another smart goal. A precise cross found the head of a diving forward whose pin point header found the bottom corner of the net. Once again the stadium was alive with passion as more fireworks were let off into the San Jose night. A third goal came with a smart flick over the Alajuela defence found a Saprissa player who scuffed a volley. The Alajuela keeper was caught off balance and the ball found its way to the back of the net. With the final score 3-0, the Purple Monsters had won the bragging rights in Costa Rican football.