Sunday I had the propitious opportunity to attend the campeonato de futból de La Tigra de San Carlos.
Some readers may know that La Tigra de San Carlos is on the northern slopes of the cordillera de Tilarán. It is a small rural community; most people who live in La Tigra farm or work in tourism in La Fortuna, about 40 minutes away.
As such, the campeonato was the most happenin’ happening around.
Hugo, my friend and coworker, told us the game started at 12:00. We arrived about 11:30 because we didn’t want to miss any action. Shortly after he greeted us, Hugo said, “Compadre, the game starts at 1:00. I think they told us it started at noon so that we’d all be here on time!”
No big deal. I was there with some students and my other coworker’s kid, Davíd. The first game was in its first half. The two teams battled fiercely for third and fourth place.
Like most U.S. citizens, I don’t follow soccer. However, I find it quite exciting to watch. Particularly in person and when I know people who are playing.
It’s my sense that soccer players get a rap for being dramatic, particularly when they are kicked and trying to draw fouls. However, I also know that getting kicked in the shins hurts like a bastard, with or without shin guards. Getting cleated? Yeah, that sucks too.
We play soccer at least twice a week with our boys and the local boys. Suffice it to say that our students play with aplomb and with no regard for where their kicks land. I have been cleat-slashed ankle-punted and shin-bashed numerous times.
The question that came up for me is whether the arrogance the drama of pain or the indignation of being penalized is endemic to the sport itself or is a product of superstar athletes and the media.
Either way, watching a community-league championship game of men who have grown up playing soccer (some of whom may have played professionally) was really exciting, and contains many elements of a professional game.
The whole scene was a blast. The field surrounded by palm trees and lush jungle. Steaks grilling. Imperiales and guaro being passed around. Children rushing the field during breaks to shoot goals. Abuelas cheering. Wives screaming and cursing players who stole the ball from their husbands. Players clashing into one another. Refs running around and whistling.
I had never shot a sporting event before. This was a prime opportunity. When I pulled out my camera and telephoto lens, all spectator eyes fixed on me. Not only was I one of three gringos there, but I was shooting hundreds of photos.
After shooting this event, I have much more respect for sports photographers. When I see them on T.V. or at events, it looks like they are simply pointing and shooting often without framing a shot. Some of the time, they are. However, the attention it takes to capture great athletic moments is staggering. Three times, I missed amazing photos because my attention wavered. I was watching a boy play with his dog and thinking about my dog in Idaho and missed Hugo’s goal. Uff. Then I missed a shot of a guy executing a flying ninja-kick with style and accuracy.
Once I focused more seriously, visions of powerful shots became much clearer. I followed the ball far more closely than ever I do when playing the game. Not surprisingly, I knew exactly what was going on and figured out who played what position. I even knew the score.
The photo below shows the Cerritos team dressed early and watching the game.
Shortly before this, the orange car drove out across the corner of the field (where the other teams were still playing) to park where he did. But don’t worry. The owner is Team Captain. Oh yeah, the hood and trunk of his car are airbrushed. The hood:
I neglected to shoot the trunk, but noticed shortly after they arrived that the figure airbrushed onto the surface is his wife. In a bikini. Posing on the beach.
I love Costa Rica.
When the other game ended, the Cerritos team got together for a team picture. Hugo hailed me to shoot them, about which I felt honored.
After the shot, all ran and disappeared. The players trickled onto the field in another ten minutes or so in different uniforms. These guys take their photos seriously!
Shooting the game was unbelievably fun. I thought there was tons of action. I walked over to Hugo’s wife Dinia and she said, “Ay, what a boring game.”
Davíd said, “Si, pero para usted es perfecto. / Yeah, but for you it’s perfect.”
“Si,” I replied. And walked off contentedly to shoot some more.
Shortly after that, the boy with the dog arrived and I began watching him and his family. Suddenly the crowd erupted!
Hugo had scored! I pulled my camera up in time to catch Hugo screaming and bounding toward my side of the field. Apparent not only in his response to scoring a goal, but also his agility and power on the field, Hugo played on a semi-pro team when he was younger.
The game wound up in penales or penalty kicks. The rules were thus: Each team has five shots. Whoever winds up with the most goals after that wins. If they tie, it goes into sudden death.
Penales was as exciting as anything I have ever seen. Plus, I got to stand out on the field and shoot the whole thing.
While the photos of the game might not be worthy of print, it was a highly educational and seriously fun experience.
Community-league games may not be as high-intensity as professional games, but they share much in common. The drama of fouls, indignant, egotistical players, and fights (or near-fights) is ubiquitous. The most important difference I found between this community-league game and professional games is that when the players are done, they leave the field and join their families and friends on the sideline to enjoy a cold Imperial.