I paid a brief visit to Costa Rica in 2004 and liked what I saw. It was the second stop on a cruise, as we headed for the Panama Canal.
The first stop had been at Acapulco, where my husband and I had tried to take a walk but retreated back onto the ship, overwhelmed by people trying to sell us stuff. We realised that, compared to them, we were incredibly wealthy and couldn’t blame them for trying to part us from a little bit of that wealth.It was probably guilt that made us feel so uncomfortable.
Costa Rica was different. I remember travelling through the canopy of a rainforest in a small cable car, seeing crocodiles in a river, watching a catch of fish being loaded into a lorry and I was especially impressed by what our guide said and his obvious pride as he said it. He told us how beautiful his country was and what good education and health care they had. He was trying to sell us his country. They did have stuff to sell as well. If you wanted something they sold it; if you browsed and didn’t buy, they just stood and smiled. They didn’t call out or grab your arm and try to drag you to their stall.
Based on that very limited experience I like Costa Rica and would normally want them to win when they played Italy. It wasn’t the result I wanted on Friday but they got the win and I hope they go on to cause another upset or two in the knockout rounds. But I’d like England to beat Costa Rica or at least get a draw on Tuesday; I don’t want our players to be completely humiliated. I’ve grown a bit fonder of the England team after watching their two losses. That’s probably because watching England has been a bit like watching Birmingham City; the players tried hard and played well at times but weren’t good enough.