Made in Central America – Sport as a universal language

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When speaking about sports, Central America may be less exposed than South or North American countries, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their idols and favourite sports. Watch out for football and baseball!

Travelling around the globe always brings new experience and opens new (different) views. I was lucky to travel in Central America recently. Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama were the destinations where I spent a couple of weeks.

As a sports fan I always try to talk with locals about sports. I don’t know, I just think that sport has even stronger significance in less developed countries. “When FC Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5:0 in ‘el clasico’ last November, the centre of Managua was all in FCB colours,” said our taxi driver. The people of Nicaragua – although the majority lives on the edge of poverty – just love sports, especially football and baseball. Baseball even more, they even have some players in professional Major League Baseball (MLB) in the USA. “Baseball means hope,” said the taxista Bernardo and added that a lot of youngsters are practicing sport more and more each day.

After Nicaragua, our journey continued into Costa Rica. If Nica was more about baseball, Costa Rica (Pura Vida) is definitely more about football. Every single village has at least a church and … a football pitch. Interesting, football also has practical orientation use: “Make a left/right after the football pitch,” was a common sentence. The third country I visited – Panama – is again more about baseball. Similar as Nicaragua: a few players in MLB. If you add a pretty strong (historical and political) connection between Panama and the USA, this “sport result” is obvious.

Before coming to this part of the world, I definitely wasn’t aware of sport and its (important) role. However, Central America still looks to be a pretty undeveloped, hidden market. Sports marketing, sponsorships and sports management have lots of potential. Maybe a transfer of just one player to a big football club – Mexico is excluded from this debate – would change the whole situation.

Anyway, people down there just love sports in general. They might have a lack of money, but they’ll still wear Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo football kits while walking down the street or playing football/baseball on the dusty old field. Indeed, there’s a lot of potential, passion and love. And everybody’s friendly when sport is the topic of conversation. No doubt, sport is definitely a universal language.

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