Away Days: Costa Rica Special

Monday 22 July 2013 08:59

We catch up with Fulham fan Marc Millington, who made the trip to Costa Rica to see the team and even met Bryan Ruiz's mother.

How long have you been planning your trip to Costa Rica to follow the team, and what made you decide to go out there?

I've been backpacking in South America for a year and was in Bolivia when the tour was announced. I missed all of last season so the chance to see Fulham live was too good to pass up. I raced to Buenos Aires, took the boat to Uruguay and then a 12-hour flight to Costa Rica, via Panama - I'm glad I didn't check the map too closely beforehand!
What are your impressions of Costa Rica so far? Have you been there before, and how does it differ from England?

I'm loving Costa Rica! The people are so friendly and welcoming and they’re crazy about football! It’s my first time here; it's a developing country but doing so fast. Tourism is very important and well catered to and people are keen to show off their English. It’s such a diverse country, rich in wildlife, with rainforests and active volcanoes, plus beaches on the Pacific and Caribbean bringing the influences of both.
Have you had a chance to explore the sights of the country? If so, what have you seen so far?

I've mostly been in the capital San José, happily visiting the museums, parks and bars. Most of the population is centred here and it’s a fun city, a good springboard for tours. After the Alajuelense game I went to the west coast to see turtles hatching.
What have you made of the Costa Rican fans and the atmosphere at the games?

For a friendly, the atmosphere at the first game was amazing! There were marching bands doing laps around the stadium and the Cartaginés fans were in great voice throughout. Our Fulham shirts brought a lot of attention with the opposition fans keen on photos, shirt swapping and plying us with drinks. Great fans, really friendly and knowledgeable.
You were invited to meet Bryan Ruiz’s mother, how did that come about and what did she say?

I’d swapped my shirt with a Cartaginés fan and then couldn't find a replacement in town! I was about to give up when a cheeky street vendor said, “Fulham shirt? In Costa Rica? You're dreaming! I've got Chelsea...” Now, not taking no for an answer, I heard that Bryan had a shop in his ‘nearby’ hometown. My taxi driver finally found it, after dark and shuttered up.

Press ganging two local kids into the wild goose chase as guides, we all ended up at Bryan’s grandmother's house and she kindly called her daughter to arrange a meeting the next day - while I was dying of embarrassment! I arrived sheepishly the next morning to meet the lovely Rosa Ruiz! I asked how she felt about her son living in England, she was sad he was so far away but happy it was good for his career.

And of course she loves coming to London! She was delighted to hear about his goal in the first game and went to the second. I went back to my laughing cabbie in a Bryan strip and Costa Rica jester's hat. ¡Pura vida!
Have you followed the team on other tours before? Is this the furthest that you have ever travelled to see them?

I went to the UEFA Europa League games in Rome and Germany but, yes, this is the furthest!
What have you seen of the team so far? Have you been impressed and do you think that the tour will be good for our hopes next season?

Friendlies are friendlies, all about teamwork and fitness, but still it’s great to see Bryan playing with confidence and scoring goals and it’s a joy to watch Dimitar Berbatov live - the locals are quickly joining the Black And White Army! It was good to see Pajtim Kasami heavily involved in the play and new signing Derek Boateng could soon become a fans’ favourite. But out here everyone’s buzzing about new owner Shahid Khan: can he push on from the great years under Mohamed Al Fayed...?