With the FIFA World Cup about to begin in Russia, we look at connections between Bristol Rovers Football Club and the 32 participating countries.
In some cases these connections are strong and multiple; in others they are tenuous, at best. Costa Rica are competing in their fifth World Cup Finals and found themselves in England’s group in 2014.
No Costa Rican has played for or against Rovers and no Rovers player or opponent, as far as we know, has furthered his career there.
Jeff Hopkins, Swansea born in 1964, won his final Welsh cap in May 1990 in a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica, where he played alongside Billy Bodin’s father, Paul. At that time Hopkins was with Palace, but he joined Rovers on a free transfer in March 1992 and played in defence in
4 (+2) League matches before signing for Reading that summer.
The holder of 16 caps for Wales, he moved to Singapore in 1997 and he has spent most of the past 20 years coaching in Australia, where he is currently head of the Melbourne Victory women’s team.
In March 2018, the former Rovers loanee Oli McBurnie earned a first Scotland cap when he played in the 1-0 defeat against Costa Rica. Born in Leeds in June 1996, the striker, at the time on loan at Barnsley, had impressed both for the U-21 side and in Championship football. He had joined Rovers on loan from Swansea City in March 2016 and was used five times as a substitute before returning to his parent club. ‘An intelligent footballer … tall and can physically hold his own’ (Dave Powell, ‘Chester Chronicle’), he has been compared in many circles to Steve Claridge, for his knack of prowling six yard boxes, socks around his ankles, poaching critical goals at key moments in games.
Trinidadian striker Nigel Pierre played against Costa Rica on three occasions, in a 3-0 defeat in March 2001 and in draws in January 2002 and March 2005.
Born in June 1979 in Port of Spain, he scored 17 goals in 55 matches for Trinidad between 1999 and 2005 but his three matches with Rovers, one starting and two as substitute, proved his only professional experience away from the Caribbean. ‘Powerfully built with good skills and finishing ability’, he had trials in England, Scotland, Norway, Belgium and Egypt, but now lives in Trinidad where he was most recently manager at Westside Superstarz.