The NFL comes to Costa Rica
Two weeks ago, this newspaper covered the U.S.-style football game between the Bulldogs and the Toros, of Santa Ana, at Cuty Monge Stadium, in the southern San José suburb of Desamparados. It was a well-played contest complete with a down-to-the-wire NFL playoff-type finish.
Besides the good on-field content of its own games, the American Football Federation of Costa Rica (FEFACR) has found other ways to promote U.S.-style football in Costa Rica. From March 11-17, FEFACR is hooking up with Score International, a Christian-oriented association of National Football League players who tour other countries to promote the sport and their faith. FEFACR and Score organized what they have called the Pro Experience week, a series of events in which NFL players interact with Costa Ricans in various ways.
This Tico Shooter attended a clinic organized for 9 p.m. on Tuesday, at Plaza Víquez in south-central San José. It didn’t sound very promising: Tuesday night, central San José, starting late. As it turns out, the Plaza Víquez sports complex, consisting of an artificial turf soccer and track field, a basketball gym and a competition-sized swimming pool, is a hive of organized sports activity. The starting time for the Gringo football clinic was late because it had to wait for a scheduled soccer league game to end.
But well before the fútbol finished, there stood a group of more than 100 FEFACR players and fans, ready to take the field for the Gringo football clinic.
The Score International group consisted of two Cincinnati Bengals: professional linebacker Vincent Rey and running back Cedric Peerman; two Tennessee Titans: linebacker Tim Shaw and center-guard Fernando Velasco; and three Tampa Bay Buccaneers: linebacker Dekoda Watson, tackle Demar Dotson and linebacker Corey Lynch.
The clinic was organized into position coaching, plus four basic training activities for local participants: agility drills, sprints (40 yards), shuttle runs and bench-press weight lifting.
It was just as interesting to mingle with the Costa Rican football fans as with the NFL players. A standout player and fan is Byron Valerín, a young Tico as big as some of the NFL instructors, who plays for the Cartago Rhynos. Asked what makes the FEFACR tick, he replies that it’s sheer love of the game and the fellowship it develops. He makes the point that despite some sponsorship income, each player has to buy all his own equipment, including uniform, cleats, pads and helmet.
The NFL players were uniformly friendly, polite and gracious. A frequently heard instructional phrase from Dekoda Watson was, “Don’t be afraid to hit Demar. He’s a big guy and you can’t hurt him.” Demar Dotson is 6’9’’ and 315 pounds.
The tastefully named Fernando Velasco, who speaks perfect native U.S. English, turns out to have a Colombian father.
Overall, it was an interesting and friendly night dedicated to U.S. football. Who’d a thunk it, that a Gringo football clinic could draw a respectable crowd of followers to the middle of San José at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night?
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