San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Businesses Cash in on World Cup

Fernando Murillo can show you where the Costa Rican national team jerseys are located in the Extremos sports shop, but unless you’re a very petite female, you’re not going to be pleased.

He gestures toward a rack in the corner where about a half-dozen girls’ small- sized jerseys hang. The rest of the Costa Rican soccer merchandise is sold out.

“There are only ones for women there,” Murillo said. “Except for that, there is nothing.”

But what about the fact that Costa Rica didn’t even qualify for the World Cup? Apparently, this doesn’t make much of a difference to Tico shoppers.

Although the Costa Rican national soccer team didn’t survive the World Cup qualifying rounds, the team’s spirit and colors live on in the hearts and on the backs of Ticos across the country.

Extremos is the only licensed seller of Lotto sporting good products, Costa Rica’s national team label, and has had no problem finding buyers despite Costa Rica’s absence from next week’s World Cup. Murillo guesses that had Costa Rica qualified, even the women’s jerseys would have sold out.

However, not qualifying for the World Cup had huge financial consequences for soccer in Costa Rica. FIFA, the international federation that organizes the event, reported that each participating country receives $9 million.

On a more local level, however, money can always be made in a soccer-crazed country –whether the national team is playing in the tournament or not.

“The restaurant is always full during the World Cup,” said Ariel Ugalde, the manager at Bruno’s restaurant in Multiplaza del Este in Zapote, east of San José. “In the past two World Cups, when Costa Rica qualified, the restaurants were full. In the World Cup before that, when Costa Rica didn’t qualify, the restaurants were practically full.”

Both Bruno’s locations – the other one is in Multiplaza Oeste in Escazú – will be showing the games starting at 8 a.m. each morning.

They will have promotions offering free meals for those who guess the correct game scores, and waiters will be sporting the jerseys of Brazil, Argentina or Italy during the Cup.

A look around the Multiplaza del Este mall demonstrates that there’s no shortage of World Cup promotions. The mall is promoting a World Cup-related contest and the windows of the Nike Shop, and the Puma and Adidas sporting goods stores sport tableaus of the soccer stars at this year’s Cup in South Africa. A life-size photo of Argentinean superstar Lionel Messi greets visitors entering the Adidas shop.

The fan favorite has made Argentina jerseys one of the most popular shirts sold leading up to this year’s World Cup, said Javier Solano, the assistant manager at the Adidas store. Germany jerseys have also been a hit, while women prefer Spain, he said.

“These jerseys are very expensive,” Solano said. “They have sold. The price is

not important.”

For any team, authentic jerseys cost $73 or more. But you won’t have any luck finding authentic Costa Rican ones. Murillo says theCosta Rican jerseys available in downtown San José aren’t worth anything: “They’re not originals,” he explained. “These here are 100 percent official. If you buy a Costa Rica jersey in the Central Market, in three days the numbers will fall off.”


Adam Williams contributed to this report.

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