The Cinderella team of the World Cup thus far has got to be Costa Rica. In researching where New Yorkers of Costa Rican descent gather to watch their national team, I discovered that there was a Costa Rica Networking Group in New York City. The group was planning on meeting at Legends on West 33rd Street for the country’s last opening round match against England. Knowing that a win or a draw would see Costa Rica secure top spot in Group D, I decided to head out to watch the match along with the Costa Rican fans.
Legends is home to The Football Factory. Throughout the year, the bar shows live games from the major soccer leagues in Europe and South America as well as MLS matches and international competitions. Despite the noon hour, there was already a decent crowd spread out over the bar's two floors.
Half the televisions were showing the Italy versus Uruguay match, while the rest had the Costa Rica/England game. It was easy to spot the Costa Rica supporters as there was a large group of over 50 in one area of the room sitting behind a Costa Rica banner and wearing the blue and red jerseys of Los Ticos.
One of the Costa Rica supporters I spoke with was Hank. He was trying to watch as much of the match as he could before having to jump on a company conference call. Hank explained that both of his parents were from Costa Rica and moved to the states before he was born. He grew up in New York watching the Costa Rican league and has followed the national team his whole life. According to Hank, the growth of soccer in the states has been huge since he was young.
Meanwhile, there was little excitement from the games as both matches went in to half time goalless. Without either Uruguay or Italy having scored, Costa Rica was still sitting atop their group. The Costa Rican fans seemed very confident and the few England fans in the bar appeared to be in hiding.
England played as if they couldn’t wait to get on a plane and head home from the country’s miserable World Cup performance. There were few shots on goal from each side and Costa Rica never really looked in any danger.
As Costa Rica and England continued to knock the ball about, attention turned to the Italy and Uruguay contest. Replays of Luis Suarez’s latest biting incident flashed across the screen. Several Italy fans loudly voiced their displeasure. Within moments they were even more upset as Uruguay took the lead and went on to win the match.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica finished what it started as its 0-0 draw with England secured the top spot in Group D for the surprise team of the tournament.
Outside of Legends a few very disgruntled Italy fans were angrily discussing their teams’ elimination and the insane Suarez incident. At the same time the Costa Rican fans were happily filing out of Legends celebrating and holding up Costa Rican flags. I’m sure they were also making plans for their next get together to watch Costa Rica in the round of 16.