The Costa Rica men’s soccer team this month will host El Salvador for an important World Cup qualifier at an empty National Stadium.
Instead of welcoming 5,000 vaccinated fans — as had been previously announced — or 3,000 spectators, as was permitted at games last month, La Sele will instead play behind closed doors for the October 10 match.
The news was announced by Rodolfo Villalobos, president of the Costa Rican Football Federation (FEDEFUTBOL), who cited an inability to validate Covid-19 vaccination status corresponding with the Health Ministry’s requirements.
“Six days before the match and when a [vaccine] certificate takes a month to be delivered, we cannot force fans to present it,” Villalobos said, as quoted in La Nación.
“We will play without an audience next Sunday. It is regrettable for what this implies and for what happens at the international level. This comes from the Health Ministry.”
Villalobos said FEDEFUTBOL asked the Health Ministry for alternative options in order to host fans, and that the vaccine certificate requirements are “not viable” given the timing of the upcoming match. The Health Ministry has not responded to the claims.
Costa Rica will face Honduras on October 7 before returning to the National Stadium for an October 10 match against El Salvador. Then, La Sele will visit Columbus to face the United States on October 13.
These match days are critical for Costa Rica, which dropped points against Mexico and Jamaica in September. La Sele currently ranks fifth in the CONCACAF octagonal with two points.
The top-three teams from the octagonal will qualify to the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar, while the fourth-place team enters an intercontinental playoff.
A full Covid-19 vaccine schedule will also be required for fans wishing to attend Costa Rica’s first in-person concerts during the pandemic.