There is always time for a groundhop. Even if that is the only thing you choose to do when you’re in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. I chose to visit the home of CS Herediano.
Club Sport Herediano is the club of Heredia, a student town by itself but visually a part of the San José metropolis. Winning the championship 24 times since 1921, most recently in 2015, the club is one of the bigger ones in Costa Rica next to Saprissa and Alajuelense, which are also suburbs of San José.
I stood in front of the gate of the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero. A security guard was walking about but gladly waved me in. No idea if the tourists ever make it to here, but I asked him if I could walk around a bit. “Sin problema.” Even access to the pitch was no problem since it was a durable synthetic pitch. The smell of the plastic grass and rubber brought me right back to summer days goaltending in a small club just outside of town, half a world away. But I was in a stadium which, in size, could be the home of any mid-table side in the Belgian Pro League.
Only the main stand had seats. The rest were terraces made out of big steps coloured in the club’s own rojo and amarillo. I was curious on how the ground felt when sold out. According to the club’s website, the stadium has a capacity of 8 700 people. But I bet they can fit in about 10k.
La Garra Herediana & the scene
Almost by natural instinct, I made my way to one of the stands behind the goal. This is where La Garra Herediana watch the matches. It’s one of the Barra Bravas (Brave Gangs) in the capital. The atmosphere they create is truly Latin American with the typical ribbon banners from atop the stand to the bottom, smoke made by fire extinguishers, large drums (bombas) and the rhythms we all know and love. As the minutes passed by in the stand, I was getting very disappointed that I wouldn’t be seeing one of their matches.
There is not much I can say as far as the Garra’s hospitality towards tourists goes. It was clear I was in a part of the capital where tourists usually don’t go, but then again, I never felt unsafe in or around the stadium. Although one would understand that a Barra Brava wouldn’t act too kindly to gringos in their group.
In Europe, we try to be anonymous in our appearance. In Costa Rica, they want to stand out.
There is a proper scene in and around the capital. Before making the trip, I managed to gain some basic information from a Facebook page about the Costa Rican Barra Brava’s. The two biggest Barra’s are La 12 (Alajuelense) and Ultras Morada (Saprissa). At least they are the ones who get the most posts on the page, and since they live in the same perish, clash often in the streets of the capital. Barra’s regularly try to steal their opponent’s merchandise (ranging from scarves to t-shirts or even one of the big drums) as a price.
The Barra’s don’t wear clobber; they wear regular team jerseys or some of the Barra’s have their own, custom made jerseys with the members’ own nicknames on the back. In Europe, we try to be anonymous in our appearance. In Costa Rica, they want to stand out. An interesting feature. As far as weapons go, the lads are pretty dodgy. Numerous reports have shown that knives, brass knuckles and chains have been used in the past. About a year ago, one of the leaders of La 12 got arrested for illegal gun possession.
Lose weight and come back
It was a clear day so from the stand behind the goal I had a great sight on the mountain range protecting San José. The contrast of the vivid stadium colours against the backdrop of lush green mountains in the distance was special. The main stand had an inclined roof and it looked great. One would sometimes fight for a spot in the shade here. The stand had an old feeling to it, since it has been untouched since 1949.
I made my way towards the fan shop to consume in order to thank the club for their hospitality. It took me a while to find it, since the fan shop is located in the back of one of the stands behind the goal and is half the size of my living room. That explained why they only had jerseys in small or medium size. Judging from the look on the store clerk’s face, they probably don’t see a lot of bigger blokes like me around here. There were also no stickers or pennants available which was quite saddening since the chances of me going back are rather slim, just like their jerseys.
Should you go visit the Estadio Eladio Rosabal Cordero when you are around? The neighbourhood is laid back and the people are friendly, the stadium has a particular charm to it, but I cannot compare it to others in the country. The national stadium is located in the center of town and the stadiums of Saprissa and Alajuelense are bigger ones, but we all know that does not necessarily make them any better. So if you’re ever in Heredia; make a stop at the stadium and have a look around. Maybe by then they have some merchandising.