The passionate rivalry between Saprissa and Alajuelense
seemingly knows no bounds, with Costa Rica's most popular teams
waging an eternal struggle for the hearts and minds of
Tico fans. The fiercely contested derby games - or
clásicos - between these two sides are often decisive in
the hunt for domestic honours, so it is hardly surprising that the
clubs furnish the Costa Rican national set-up with many of its
A case in point is the Tricolor squad currently preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007. Two of the team's main men, Marcos Urena and Jorge Alejandro Castro, have experienced this bitter rivalry first-hand for years, from opposing sides of the divide.
At international level, however, the pair form a lethal striking
duo upon which hangs a great deal of Costa Rica's hopes for
Korea 2007. Sharing a well-developed mutual understanding out on
the pitch, the young goal-getters are also room-mates and firm
friends, and are determined to fire their country's bid for
world U-17 success.
Ahead of their tough opening encounter against Togo, Jorge and Marcos took time out to chat to FIFA.com about the unusual situation they find themselves in, the challenges that lie in store at Korea 2007 and their desire to make history with Costa Rica.
'We joke around a bit, but we're in this
Sitting comfortably in the team hotel, the level of complicity between the two youngsters is noticeable right from the off. "When we met up with the national team the first rule was to forget about our club sides, thus avoiding any issues," says Saprissa starlet Jorge, who nips in to field the first question. "We've followed that instruction to the letter and above all shown a great deal of respect."
Strike partner Marcos also sticks closely to the party line: "This is about Costa Rica, and our job is to help the team progress. We've built a very united and very good squad. That said, we do joke around quite a lot when our club's senior sides play a derby match, but we don't go too far - we just have a bit of fun."
The two agree that this rivalry is the fruit of their clubs' dominance of the domestic scene in recent years. "They are the teams which have won more titles and been more successful," says Castro, "That's where the rivalry comes from." Urena underlines the fact that "the clubs have the same number of supporters, who are equally passionate. The only difference is in the colours they wear."
Two great players
Having had the opportunity to work and travel together extensively, Jorge and Marcos are well placed to give their verdict on the other's undoubted qualities. "Marcos is a very quick and dangerous player, one who likes the ball played into space in front of him to make the most of his pace. He's very cunning and knows where the goal is," says Jorge of his friend.
Marcos, meanwhile, is equally forthcoming with his praise: " Ale is very strong and powerful. He really enjoys physical battles with his opponents and nearly always wins. He scores and sets up goals, so he's a very complete player."
On the back of Mexico's success at the elite event two year's ago, the Costa Rican duo feel confident of doing CONCACAF proud here at Korea 2007. "We're taking inspiration from seeing Mexico win the title at Peru 2005. We said to ourselves, 'We're fellow CONCACAF nations. If they can do it why can't we?'" says Jorge with conviction. "At that tournament, Costa Rica went mightily close to beating Mexico and that proves we've got plenty of quality and as good a chance as any," adds Marcos.
For the time being, the two friends are fully focused on the
biggest challenge of their short careers: the FIFA U-17 World Cup
Korea 2007. But what are they aiming for once the competition is
over? "I've already played a couple of games in the first
division, and I want to use that experience to have a good
tournament and earn a move abroad, which is my dream," says
His room-mate Castro, meanwhile, has already had a taste of football away from Costa Rican shores: "I was invited to train with Blackburn Rovers in England. I think it was the best experience I've had so far and I hope to go back there one day."