Heading into Friday night’s World Cup qualifying match against a last-placed U.S. team in Commerce City, Colorado, Costa Ricans were worried that cold and snowy conditions could work against their beloved Sele. After all, Costa Rica is a tropical country, where temperatures rarely drop below 60 degrees F.
But Tico fans had no idea how much snow would actually fall at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and by halftime, concern had turned to outrage as it became clear that a full-blown blizzard was underway.
“Que horror!! Están degradando el deporte!!” (“What horror!! They’re degrading the sport!!”) Costa Rica’s president, Laura Chinchilla, Tweeted an hour into the match as 45 members of the grounds crew, dressed in full winter gear, battled to keep lines clean by clearing mounds of snow that piled up.
The U.S.’ Clint Dempsey scored the chilly night’s only goal early in the 16th minute after a shot from forward Jozy Altidore ricocheted wildly off the left post. With the win, the U.S. earns three points and moves from last place in the CONCACAF division to second, while Costa Rica falls to last. Both teams will play again on Tuesday, with the Ticos taking on Jamaica at home and the U.S. heading to Mexico.
After the game, Costa Rican coach Jorge Luis Pinto called the decision not to cancel the match “embarrassing.”
“It’s embarrassing for football and embarrassing for fair play. It’s disrespectful to FIFA, the fans, the players and spectacle,” Pinto said, the Costa Rican daily Diario Extra reported.
The Saturday front page of Costa Rica’s sports daily Al Día wailed, “Outrageous! We were forced to play in caveman conditions.”
At minute 55, it looked like Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar was ready to cancel the match, but after a brief conversation at the sidelines, play was allowed to continue.
Costa Rican manager Rodolfo Villalobos said his team would protest the loss. “You couldn’t see the pitch markings and that is not allowed under the FIFA regulations,” he said. “We are going to protest.”
AFP contributed to this report