Oscar Ramirez has cited dressing smartly, stress and being recognised in public as the cons of doing a job he loves. The 76-times-capped former midfielder assumed the Costa Rica reins last year, and has overseen their perfect start to the Hexagonal phase of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying.*Los Ticos *sit two points clear at the summit of the six-side group, having won 2-0 in Trinidad and Tobago and thrashed USA 4-0 in San Jose.
Ramirez usually wore casual shirts, with several buttons undone, or a t-shirt during his time in the dugout of Costa Rican club colossuses Alajuelense, often underneath an unzipped training jacket. Since assuming his country’s controls, however, the 51-year-old has been suited and booted.
“I don’t like it,” Ramirez told La Nación. “I don’t know, I feel uncomfortable in the suit and tie, but it’s an issue that I’ve already got used to. I do it because I know it’s formal.”
Adapting to the formalities of guiding Costa Rica is something the self-confessed introvert has had to deal with.
“I know that I now get a little more attention from people,” said Ramirez. “When I go to public places, they ask me for photos. You already know what they want because I’m a public figure, so to speak. I prefer to go out with family. If I go alone, people start to bother me, whereas if I’m with my family and the kids, they respect my privacy more.”
One public place Ramirez avoids is football stadia to watch the Costa Rican Primera División. “People start conversations, they pat you on the back, and when it’s over the thing you’ve seen the least of is the game. They distract you a lot, which is why I’ve got used to recording the games.”
Ramirez also revealed that, in and around the Russia 2018 qualifiers, he almost only communicates with his four children via a ‘good morning’ or ‘good night’ in a WhatsApp group, and has little interaction with his wife as he focuses on Los Ticos.
“At home we’re very clear: with my wife, occasionally we’ll talk at night,” said the No10 in the Costa Rica team that beat Scotland and Sweden to reach the Round of 16 at Italy 1990. “She knows that, if I call, it’s because I need to speak to her or need some favour. She tries not to bother me with situations in the house because she knows that, when I’m with the national team, I’m fully occupied. On match days she comes and brings me the suit I’m going to wear, we talk a little, and it goes very quickly. I can’t give her much time.
“Being a coach is a very stressful job, although I try to make my life as simple as possible, to not put more pressure than there already is on myself. I must feel at ease with what I do without worrying about what some people say.
“The pressure on me has increased, because I now coach the national team. It’s more difficult and stressful, but likewise it’s [more] enjoyable. The stress increases during the qualifiers. Two days after the last game [against USA] I still had trouble falling asleep. It was only three days after the game that I began to relax.”
Costa Rica have appeared at four World Cups, with their best performance coming at Brazil 2014. Despite being the outsiders in a group including England, Italy and Uruguay, Los Ticos won it and eliminated Greece on penalties in the Round of 16, before losing a shootout with the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.