I could feel the beads of sweat dripping down my face while I overheard one of the soccer players yell out, “who’s ready to play?” Without even thinking about the blanket of humidity covering me and the heat of the sun beating down, I screamed with excitement, ready to run onto the soccer field. I hadn’t played soccer in years and my excitement was taken to a new level when one of the girls on the team ran over with a team jersey, shorts, and cleats to throw on for the game. It was only my second day in Costa Rica, and I already felt like family.
I changed into my purple uniform and felt proud to wear that bright purple jersey with a number 7 in bold black letters on my back. The men’s team had just cleared the field, ready to grab some water and a comfy spot to rest while the women’s league began warming up, kicking around the ball with two small girls, not quite old enough to play play on the team but still eager to run on the field and be apart of soccer Sunday.
After weighing my options of either running around the field in the afternoon heat or being goalie, I decided to conquer my fear of being hit with the ball and ran over to stand between the two metal posts. I looked over to my left and could see the entire UCI Costa Rica research team, hiding under the shade of the concession stand, either running around asking the locals questions, resting in the shade or ordering traditional Costa Rican treats to snack on.
And with the blow of a whistle, the ball flew up into the air with girls running around the field like ants in search of sweets. My heart raced as I saw the opposing team in pink running towards me at full speed, with one eye over their shoulder and the other looking for a weak spot between me and the goal. With a swift kick, the ball came hurdling towards me. I leaped to my a left, attempting to stop the ball but only managed to scrape my knee in the dirt as the ball rolled into the goal.
The whole time I was out on the field, I felt like family, with the girls supporting me and throwing game-play tips at me at every corner. I was almost happy we lost and and the winning goal was scored against me, because at least I got to feel like part of the Mastatal family, running around in the hot sun, enjoying food, friends and little apretado ice pops in attempt to cool off.
Written by Jillian Kardell