World Cup


Costa Rica’s World Cup fans hit by global economics

Surging interest rates and depreciating currencies may force some to cancel their travel plans.

Costa Rica fans celebrate qualifying for Qatar 2022 World Cup
Costa Rican fans celebrate after qualifying for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, but just a few hundred are expected to make the journey [EPA-EFE/Jeffrey Arguedas]

More than a million football fans from all around the world will be coming to Qatar for the World Cup which kicks off on November 20.

Qatar has been preparing to welcome visitors from not just the 32 participating nations but football lovers whose teams did not qualify for the mega event.

But few will be coming further than fans from Costa Rica.

The central American country was the last to book its place at Qatar 2022 – Costa Rica’s third World Cup in a row – and they will face Spain, Germany and Japan in the group stage.

But getting to the Middle East is expensive for Costa Rica fans and some are looking to win their way to Qatar, with raffles offering tickets and flights as prizes.

“Winning it would be a dream come true,” Yetty Ergedas, a fan desperate to get on a plane to Qatar, told Al Jazeera.

“Football fascinates me, and in such a spectacular location – but prices are steep, so we can only hope.”

Going to a World Cup is expensive at the best of times, Gareth Leather, a senior economist at Capital Economics in London, told Al Jazeera.

“At the moment, things are especially difficult given the cost of living, rising interest rates and also the strong dollar,” he said. “If you look at Costa Rica’s specific economic situation, you’ve got inflation running at 10 percent and wages aren’t keeping up, so people are getting poorer in real terms.

“You’ve also got a strong Qatari riyal, which is linked to the dollar, which makes it harder for countries whose currencies have depreciated against that.

“And you’ve got higher interest rates as well, so people who were going to borrow to buy tickets and travel packages, that’s now much more expensive than it used to be. All in all, it’s turning out to be a very expensive World Cup for a lot of people.”

Only about 500 fans are expected to make the trip to Qatar from Costa Rica. And faced with strong rivals, it is a long way to go for what might be a short campaign.

Costa Rica did top its group in 2014 that featured England, Italy and Uruguay.

“The truth is we like being in a group like this one,” said Michael Umaña, Costa Rica’s 2014 penalty hero.

“Compete with the best. That’s what you do in a World Cup, face the best. I feel optimistic. I know our national team shows its best when it faces the world’s most powerful.”

FIFA 2022 World Cup Qualifier - Costa Rica v New Zealand - Al Rayyan Stadium, Doha
Some Costa Rica travelled to Qatar for the qualifier against New Zealand [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]
Source: Al Jazeera