Just a month into his one-year contact with famed Costa Rican club Saprissa, forward Álvaro Saborío suddenly called it quits Thursday. In a revealing press conference, the 34-year-old veteran said the reason he decided to retire early was the barrage of criticism he recently received from Saprissa fans and the national press.
Saborío began his meeting with local press Thursday by alluding to what appears to have been a negative interaction between fans and Saborío’s family during Wednesday’s surprising 1-0 defeat at home to Belén.
“I came here to enjoy my time. I didn’t come here to see my mother suffer like she did yesterday,” he said. “I have two kids and a wife and I want to enjoy my time with them. I didn’t come here with the intent of exposing them to these fans, exposing them to an unprepared environment. I’m not willing to put up with the unfair insults and criticisms just for missing one goal.”
Though he missed a few scoring opportunities in Wednesday’s defeat, the missed goal that Saborío is most likely referencing is one that came against Santos on Feb. 1, when the forward whiffed on an easy goal in a game that ended in a 1-1 tie.
A tweet from national television broadcaster Teletica, later retweeted by Saborío, read: “Saborío unbelievably misses a critical play for Los Morados.”
Saborío didn’t do himself many favors in the press conference, however, referring to himself in the third person as “an idol.”
“There comes a point when you get tired of so much, all the harassment, and all the stuff that doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “An idol comes to Saprissa and they treat him like this. It’s pretty amazing.
“This kind of stuff never happened to me abroad,” he continued. “I feel pretty blessed to have left for so long, for not having to experience all these years what I went through again yesterday.”
Though he didn’t specify exactly what happened, it’s not hard to imagine that fans at the Saprissa Stadium might have said something offensive to Saborío’s family during or after Wednesday’s loss. The player’s candid remarks highlight the sometimes obsessive bent of football fandom, especially in Costa Rica.
“I’m tired now of the senseless critics, of the abuse, harassment, of the commentary from [Teletica announcer] Kristian Mora that he made when I missed against Santos,” Saborío said. “Honestly, I was very bothered by all that and I want to get away from it.”
It’s a bitter ending for Saborío, who began his pro career with Saprissa in 2001 and will finish as the club’s fourth-leading goal scorer of all time. In the middle of his career, Saborío enjoyed a nearly a decade of stints overseas in Switzerland, England, and the United States.
He is still the leading scorer in the history of Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer. However, Saborío had a similarly bad ending there when he was suspended by the team. Coach Jeff Cassar later made it known that off-field problems from Saborío led to his trade, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
For the Costa Rican national team, Saborío is ranked third all-time in goals scored with 35 and finishes top five all-time in games played.