MIAMI, Florida – One would be hard pressed to find a more decorated and interesting career in Costa Rican football than that of Rolando Fonseca.
From making his professional debut in 1989 to his final season in 2011, Fonseca enjoyed a career that took him to many parts of the footballing world. Yet perhaps one of the most unique things about the former striker is that he is one of the rare players to have suited up for both Deportivo Saprissa and Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, two clubs that are long-time rivals.
Adding to Fonseca’s mystique is that in all-time Concacaf meetings between Saprissa and Alajuelense, he is Saprissa’s co-leader in most goals scored in the nine international matches between the two sides with two goals, yet Fonseca was also a member of the Alajuelense team that defeated Saprissa in the 2004 Concacaf Champions Cup Final.
A winner of the 1993 and 1995 Concacaf Champions Cup with Saprissa and the 2004 Concacaf Champions Cup with Alajuelense, Fonseca sat down with Concacaf.com ahead of next month’s 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf League Final between Saprissa and Alajuelense to talk about his experience of playing on both sides of one of the region’s fiercest rivalries and what he expects in next month’s SCL Final.
“It is another dream final. To see these two clubs in another Final is great and it inspires each of the clubs to try to win it. I am fortunate to have played in both clubs and won a Concacaf tournament with both,” said Fonseca about the upcoming SCL Final.
“More than ever, I think the Final comes with both clubs in a good moment. These are the finals that everyone wishes to play and principally to win. You want to win because then those memories and dreams will last forever in the minds of the fans,” said Fonseca.
No stranger to high-stakes Concacaf matches, Fonseca knows that even the slightest occurrence can totally change the dynamic of a Final.
“Finals come down to details and circumstances. Things can turn on a yellow card, a red card, a bad play. A goal can change a lot, like a goal drawn up in training. But most importantly, you have to be able to give something more when you are faced with adversity, and that is the wonderful thing about being in these clubs. One can learn a lot more while winning; to correct things while winning is much easier because not only does it make you stronger, but it lifts you up higher. I think these two teams will enter the Final taking care of the smallest details, trying to score an early goal, trying to make the difference or strike in some manner to grab the advantage,” said Fonseca.
Another compelling aspect is the approach of each side. While both are laden with talent, Fonseca sees a clash of styles between Saprissa and Alajuelense.
“Where do I see the strengths? In midfield. Saprissa have the talent and game-breaking players and they brought in Kendall Waston to firm things up in defense. Alajuelense have very quick transitions, they are a physical team and with very experienced players who can make a difference. So those are two strengths that aren’t the same, which is nice. They are two different styles. In the end, you can put in all the tactics you want, but a Final is won with your heart and your head,” said Fonseca.
While Saprissa and Alajuelense each have their fair share of veteran players, there are a number of young players who will be expected to deliver big performances in the Final. Fonseca believes that the young players who maintain their calm and focus purely on their football over the 90 minutes will flourish.
“In these Concacaf tournaments, everything changes. The stadium atmosphere is different, the ball is different, it is a totally different feeling. They are games that are more widely seen and covered, so for the player it is a great commitment. In a game like this for a young player, you have to know how to manage things, your emotional intelligence. You have to know how to face this match and interpret the responsibility of being in a Final. For me, that is fundamental. You have to write your own story and decide what you want it to be,” said Fonseca.
The Covid-19 pandemic means that no fans will be permitted inside the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela, Costa Rica, when the teams square off on February 3, but Fonseca doesn’t think it will lessen the passion that the fan bases will feel.
“In this pandemic with the fans unable to go to the stadium and having to stay at home and watch this kind of Final, it will make this a dream-like Final. It doesn’t matter how they have each gotten there, it will be a hard-fought Final because both teams have been working to win, they are made to win. I can’t wait to watch this Final, too, since I know each club’s DNA, their heart, their courage, their will to represent the fans. The 22 players that take the field will no doubt give their greatest effort,” said Fonseca.