Costa Rica files formal protest with FIFA over snowy World Cup match

March 25, 2013

Within 24 hours of last Friday’s victory by the U.S. men’s squad in an all-out blizzard in Colorado, Costa Rica formally petitioned FIFA to schedule a rematch, citing player safety concerns and inhospitable conditions.

The U.S. beat Costa Rica 1-0 in a blizzard at Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park that at times reached near whiteout conditions. Nearly a half-foot of snow accumulated on the field during the game, which was a qualifying match to determine who will make the trip to Brazil in 2014.

“All the supporting documentation with photos and videos were sent to FIFA in the allotted time of less than 24 hours,” Costa Rican Football Federation (Fedefutbol) Treasurer Rodolfo Villalobos said.

According to Villalobos, Costa Rica tried to suspend the match, but “was unable,” a Fedefutbol statement said.

Costa Rica based its protest on four arguments: players’ safety was put at risk, non-players (the grounds crew) were allowed on the field during play, lines were not visible, and the ball was unable to freely travel over a layer of snow that built up during the game.

FIFA acknowledged on Monday it had received the complaint.

“These four arguments should be studied by FIFA in order to reschedule the match based on violations to the rules of fair play,” the Fedefutbol statement said.

“In addition, [the petition] asks for disciplinary action against the officials involved in the decision to continue playing, which in this case includes the FIFA commissioner and the referees,” the statement added.

“Although we don’t want to create false expectations, we are fighting for our rights that we believe were violated during this game,” Villalobos said.

The Fedefutbol treasurer added that had Costa Rica walked off the field in protest during Friday night’s match in Commerce City, they would have been disqualified from World Cup competition and would have faced a fine from FIFA.

As expected, fans are divided by team on whether playing soccer in a snowstorm is allowed under FIFA rules. U.S. sports commentators said that player safety was not an issue, the lines were visible, and the ball moved freely over the snow. Costa Ricans, however, were outraged over the match, and social media networks were flooded with angry messages accusing the U.S. and FIFA of a low-handed tactic to launch the team up from last place in their division. Ultimately, FIFA will have to decide who’s right.

Both teams will put the scandal aside for now, as Costa Rica gets set to take on Jamaica’s “Reggae Boyz” at home on Tuesday, while the U.S. heads to Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium.

Tickets for Tuesday’s match at the National Stadium in San José are sold out, the daily La Nación reported on Monday. Villalobos told La Nación that Ticos are rallying behind their team after the U.S. defeat.

Meanwhile, Costa Ricans are turning to humor to vent their frustration with several memes going viral over social media networks. One photo on Facebook shows a flooded and muddy soccer pitch in La Guayaba de Talamanca, a proposed site for the next Costa Rica-U.S. match. Other Tweets propose holding the game at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium north of San José, “where the Gringos will be terrified.” Visiting locker rooms at the stadium are located underneath fan seating areas, and noise from the crowd can be intimidating for visiting squads. Fans also are allowed to sit near the field, which the U.S. team has had a problem with in the past.

On Sunday, ESPN’s Jorge Ramos Tweeted that Costa Rican players will protest Friday’s game by turning their backs during the national anthem at the start of Tuesday night’s match against Jamaica.

Kickoff is 8 p.m., and the game will be televised on local Costa Rican channels Repretel and Teletica (6 and 7).

The U.S.-Mexico match gets under way at 8:30 p.m., Mexico City time.

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