When the Costa Rican national soccer team returned home from the historic run in the World Cup, players were greeted with thousands of screams and waves from every direction. Miles of fans stretched from La Sele’s arrival point at Juan Santamaría Airport down the highway to Paseo Colón and Parque la Sabana, as the team concluded a welcome back party on stage at the park in front of a massive crowd Tuesday night.
In reaching the Cup’s semifinals, where they bowed out after losing the penalty shootout to Holland, this year’s Costa Rican team members went further than any other in national history. The team also went undefeated with a 2-3-0 record, as games that go into penalty kicks officially count as ties. But most of all, as supporters made clear during the celebration, the little country from Central America gained a load of respect on the international level.
President Luis Guillermo Solís met the team as players got off a plane at the airport around 3 p.m. In a short speech directed towards the team members, Solís called them national heroes and said their success on the field inspired all of Costa Rica.
“In each moment of play, you gave everything you had in your hearts for
Costa Rica,” he said. “Thank you for the roads you opened, for the example you set, for the goals you scored, and the goals you stopped.”
Coach Jorge Luis Pinto and Eduardo Li, the president of the country’s soccer federation, thanked the fans and the people of Costa Rica for their undying support while La Sele played in Brazil.
Following a long ride from the airport to Sabana, the players took the stage around 7:30 p.m. where midfielder Celso Borges took the microphone and introduced his teammates individually to say a few words to the crowd. Towards the end, the Municipalidad de San José
then presented Pinto and players with the city’s Hijos Predilectos or Favorite Sons honors.
Fans towards the front of the stage said they had camped out since early in the morning, waiting more than 12 hours to greet their national team.
More World Cup celebrations may be in order for La Sele as post-tournament awards could highlight some Costa Rican players, including goalkeeper Keylor Navas who has a good shot of winning the Golden Glove Award given to the top goalie. In an incredible start that highlights just how dominant he and the defense were, Navas only allowed two goals in 510 minutes of play. One of those came on a penalty kick and the other came when the Ticos were a man down.
The Fuerza Pública said the la Sabana gathering was generally orderly. There were 500 officers on duty.
Police said 18 persons were detained, including five caught in the act of a street robbery. Other violations included alcohol, weapons and marijuana and cocaine possession, officers said.