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Sports

Locals return from soccer tournament with fond memories of games, fans and country


Courtesy of Kingstone Shih
Dr. Kingstone Shih and wife Laura Meneses show their support for her home country of Costa Rica at the FIFA World Cup.

When Dr. Kingstone Shih goes on vacation, soccer is almost always on the itinerary. The dentist from Los Altos said he is an “avid soccer fan” who tries to attend a game wherever he travels.

So Shih couldn’t pass up the chance to be at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil – especially after learning that his wife Laura Meneses’ native country had earned a berth in the tournament.

More World Cup coverage:  World travelers have a ball in Brazil

“As soon as we realized Costa Rica had qualified, around November of 2013, we decided that we would attend the Cup in support of my wife’s home country,” Shih said.

They got lucky in the lottery for tickets, he noted, securing seats for Costa Rica’s first three games.

Due to fierce competition, Costa Rica was not expected to advance beyond the group stage. But the team did just that by beating Uruguay and Italy, then playing England to a scoreless draw.

“The most exciting and competitive game was against Uruguay,” said Shih, who returned home Thursday, “but I have to say, the England fans are by far the most animated and vocal, with constant chants and singing songs in support of their team.”

Costa Rica’s game against Uruguay took place in Recife, which Shih ranked as the worst of the three sites he and his wife visited.

“As far as organization, Recife was the least organized, with the stadium in a remote location and a less-than-desirable system of getting fans to and from the venue,” he said. “We took a private shuttle, but we ended up in horrendous traffic and arrived at the venue with less than 30 minutes to spare.”

Belo Horizonte – site of the Costa Rica-England match – “was the most organized,” Shih added, “with express buses from the city center to and from the stadium running like clockwork.”

As far as security at the World Cup, Shih came away impressed with the way Brazil handled it.

“Security was excellent at all locations, with a heavy military police presence in all locations,” he said. “FIFA also set up perimeters of 3 kilometers around each stadium into which only ticketholders could enter. This also helped ease congestion and keep undesirables away.”

Shih – on his sixth trip to Brazil – found the people there as cordial as ever.

“In my observation, most fans – including Americans – have been treated with friendly respect,” he said. “Every morning at breakfast in the hotel, we dined with fans from other countries, and the local Brazilians (were) very welcoming.”

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