“We didn’t expect to see such a high standard. We see women’s football totally differently now and we’re going to be following these young players.”
These are the words of just of one the fans FIFA.com spoke to at the stadiums where the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014 is currently being played out.
Among the many fans we surveyed was Esteban, a student who had gone to see one of the games at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose.
“I’d never watched women’s football before this World Cup,” he told us on his way out of the stadium. “I came along to support Venezuela because I think they’ve been the best team here so far, along with Nigeria. I’ve really enjoyed watching both of them.”
Fellow women’s football fan Paola Ramirez echoed those views: “I didn’t think that girls could play at the same standard as boys,” she said with a laugh, “but I really like women’s football now. I’ve been impressed by Spain and Japan, but I’m going to support Venezuela through to the end.”
Over in Liberia, meanwhile, we gauged the reactions of Adrian, a 29-year-old fan of Herediano, who lie second in the Costa Rican championship.
“I honestly wasn’t that excited at the idea of going to see girls play football,” he admitted. “I have to say, though, that their performances have impressed me, especially those of the Japan team. I’ve managed to get tickets and I’ve come here today just to watch them.”
Warming to his theme, Adrian even told us he had a favourite player: “Deyna Castellanos is incredible for her age. I’m going to try and sign her up for our team,” he joked.
Unearthing the stars of tomorrow
The FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup has always provided a stage for talented young players to show what they can do. Costa Rica 2014 has proved no exception, with Castellano, Gloriana Villalobos, the two Garcias – Nahikari and Gabriela – and Marie Levasseur just some of the rising stars to have impressed the fans with their superb technique.
“I’ve enjoyed watching Villalobos and Castellano and I think they have a bright future ahead of them,” said Rafael Romano, a store owner, who was moved to see the action for himself after watching the opening matches on TV.
The tournament has fired the dreams of 12-year-old Pamela, who came to cheer on Italy and see Manuela Giugliani in action. “I’d like to become a professional player one day and play for Costa Rica,” said the Lionel Messi and Neymar fan. “I need to wait a little longer though.”
Costa Rica 2014 has proved an excellent showcase for women’s football, as reflected by the huge crowds that have flocked to the tournament, giving the women’s game a massive boost. The overall attendance for the first-round matches was 209,658, a record for the competition and a figure that is sure to rise significantly during the knockout phase.
The people of Costa Rica have plenty to look forward to when the tournament is over, with the men’s national team taking on the world at Brazil 2014 in just a few weeks’ time.
Looking ahead to the big event, 11-year-old Alajuelense supporter Antonio told us: “I can’t wait for the World Cup in Brazil. We’ve been drawn into a difficult group but we can beat Uruguay.”
Whatever the future may hold for Los Ticos in Brazil, the fact is that Costa Rica has lived up to its commitments over the last couple of weeks, helping women’s football take another big stride forward and fulfilling the promise made in the tournament’s official song: “We will shine on the rich coast”.