GAME 20: Cero Planno, Monteverde Costa Rica


Leaving Colombia had been upsetting. I'd had 10 of the most overwhelming days of my life there and made some great friends along the way.


Arriving in Costa Rica, I honestly didn't know what day it was, such was the extent to which my Colombian experience had taken me over.


On the second day in Costa Rica I decided I needed to clear my head, so I headed out to Monteverde, an absolutely stunning mountain nature reserve west of my homestay in Sabanilla, San Jose.


After a day's trecking through the breathtaking tropical jungle, I had a chat with one of the 5 brothers who owned the Manakin Lodge where I was staying.


Edgar Vargas Sulcedo, 31, is quite a character and a real survivor, more of which I'll explain in the book I'm writing to go with these write ups.


Through Edgar, three kids from the local neighbourhood, Joshua, Sebastian and Paolo, alerted their mates that a game was on in the backstreet to the lodge this evening.


At 6.00pm, 10 footy mad kids came bombing around the corner on their bikes ready to play . Brilliant. Edgar joined one side and I the other. Just like when we were kids , we played on into the night. 5 v 5. First to 10.


These tiny warriors competed for every single inch. The concentration on their faces total. The most ferocious player was a young girl with a butterfly t-shirt on. She booted the lads all over the place, scored a few and made a gravity defying, acrobatic goal-line clearance. Her mum called her in at one point but she refused to go. This was life and death. Even when her mum came out to send her on an errand, she got on her bike, rode a few yards, checked her mum had gone back in then carried on playing. Just fantastic.


The game had the lot. Elbows, boots in the ankle, the ball getting stuck under bikes, goals disallowed for being over the imaginary bar, volleys, headers, a dog on the pitch and a 100 miles an hour determination to score which didn't let up for the whole hour we played.


It was almost pitch black by the time Edgar's team sealed the win 10-7, the game totally epitomised by the sheer enthusiasm, love of the game and fearsome courage of madam butterfly.


These tiny troopers, and being in these stunning and peaceful surroundings, had cheered me up no end.