Here & there: World Cup mania up close and personal

Stock image | Photo courtesy of OcusFocus via iStock / Getty Images Plus; Costa Rica logo added image via Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5188055, St. George News

FEATURE — It’s Friday and I’m sitting in Greensboro, North Carolina, immersed in the USA Gymnastics Championships for tumbling and trampoline. My days are filled with flips and twists and falls and competitive drama.

My son finished competing today and I can finally resume breathing normally. In this explosive sport, where young athletes are doing double flips with double revolutions and triple pikes, you don’t only want them to do their best – you want them to land on their feet, not on their heads.

Think of traditional gymnastics on steroids.

As a spectator, it’s thrilling. Unless you’re one of the parents; then, it’s equal parts thrilling and exhausting.

But the rest of the world couldn’t care less. The rest of the world is caught up in the drama of another sport: soccer.

Pulsating crowds fill the soccer stadium in Sochi, Russia, day after day to cheer on their home teams, bodies painted from face to waist, flags in hand and national anthems on their lips.

Who knew the World Cup was such a big deal? Certainly not this California girl.

Until I found myself in a soccer country during the 2014 World Cup.

My three kids and I spent a month on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica practicing Spanish and learning how to surf with one of my girlfriends and her four kids. We didn’t know when we booked the trip that we’d also be down there during World Cup time.

But World Cup time indeed it was.

We hired two locals as our surfing instructors. That meant that lessons had to be scheduled not only around the tide and weather conditions, but also around the schedule of soccer play.

To compensate for the inconvenience, our male instructor, Rolo, invited us to join him and half the population of the sleepy beach town at a local restaurant to watch one of the matches. With the combined seven kids in tow, my friend and I figured we’d make a brief appearance to get a taste of what watching the World Cup was like in Costa Rica.

Two hours later, we left the restaurant hoarse and elated, surrounded by 150 of our dearest friends, my middle boy wearing the Costa Rican flag like a toga.

The flag had been a gift from a jubilant fan 44 minutes into the match when Costa Rica scored its winning – and only – goal against Italy.

It was also then that the restaurant security guard, dressed in combat boots and large, black pistol, jumped into the swimming pool. He emerged, with a full smile – and a gun full of water.

My kids couldn’t believe they’d just seen grown man jump into the pool like that. And that nobody, even his boss, seemed to care.

On the contrary, people were slapping his back and congratulating him heartily as he sat on the edge of the pool while he unlaced his boots and then poured the now sullied water out of them back into the pool.

From the moment of the goal, the humid tropical air filled with an electrical charge that carried throughout the dusk and into the dark.

When the match finished and Costa Rica’s victory clinched, dozens of small sedans and pickup trucks streamed out of the restaurant along the dirt and pothole-pocked roads, their seats filled above capacity both in terms of occupants and joy.

As our troop of mostly children floated back to our rented apartment, we did so not to the usual cacophony of cicadas and howler monkeys, but to one of car horns and human whooping.

In my memory, the new chorus continued every night for the remainder of our 10 days on the peninsula.

Costa Rica would go on to advance to the quarterfinals that year. We were back in the U.S. by then, but I swear I could feel the humid electricity from the high desert of Salt Lake City.

And I can feel it again now, all the way from North Carolina, as I watch a World Cup stadium halfway across the world filled with euphoric Brazilians cheering on their countrymen.

Kat Dayton is a columnist for St. George News, any opinions given are her own and not representative of St. George News.

Email: katdayton@gmail.com | news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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3 Comments

  • Kilroywashere July 8, 2018 at 10:38 am

    No USA team this year. Hard to get too excited. Costa Rica , Nicoya Penninsula, great spelunking there, and Samara beach solo beautiful . Near playa Montezuma. Sadly Costa Rica has gone South since the great recession. Pura Vida, now pura crime. San Jose has become like Guatemala city. Too bad. It was once a great country. Well, maybe England will win this year.

  • mmsandie July 8, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    World Fifa soccer happens every 4 yrs..this year was most exciting because no 9ne could predict the out come of any games big country teams, Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Russia were elimnated by little countries who have never won or not in a long time..
    Tuesday, weds Saturday and the final this Sunday will be exciting. I started 17 yrs ago.. and got hookedif youdon,t think soccer is greatwait in 8 yrs it’s com8ng to USA.. 60 games here and 10 in Canada and 10 in Mexico..if you think th3 World Series or super bowl areexciting wait thesuper bowl brought in 350 milli9n dollars the soccer will bring in billions to USA economy.

  • Mike P July 9, 2018 at 10:48 am

    I hope soccer makes deep inroads into American sports. The sheer amount of “fans” who die of boredom will help with overpopulation.

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