Weirdest Thing I Learned Today: China Is Building Soccer Stadiums For Poor Countries In Exchange For Political Favors

This is the most bizarre sports-related story I’ve come across in some time.  From The Football Ramble:

On Saturday, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid kick off at the Camp Nou and the Mestalla, respectively. Between the two clubs, thirteen players return from international duty with Spain. With Euro 2012 qualifying over, these players earned quite a few frequent flyer miles courtesy of a trip to Costa Rica, which was more or less 30 hours of flying at 30,000 feet from Heathrow and back to Spain.

It’s no mystery as to why Spain traveled all the way down to San José. Money was waiting to be collected. Lots and lots of money. And at the moment FEDEFUTBOL, Costa Rica’s football federation, is sitting on a massive pile of cash.

Relative to Costa Rica’s socio-economic conditions, this money is an absolute anomaly. Though wealthier than surrounding nations such as Nicaragua, Costa Rica’s estimated income per capita is only just over $11,000 USD. But in the world of football, Costa Rica opened a 35,100 seat, $105 million Estadio Nacional in March, with money left over for high profile friendlies against Argentina, Brazil and Spain. There was even room to accommodate concerts from Shakira and Pearl Jam. The state-of-the-art stadium also has a running track, so a bid for the Pan American Games seems imminent.

If you’re a fan of ‘Los Ticos’, life seems pretty, pretty good. However, if you’re an average citizen, you’d be right to raise an eyebrow. This lavishness was funded entirely by the Chinese government.

They’re essentially holding countries hostage by going at what matters most to the countrys’ hearts: soccer. 

Go read the rest of it, truly fascinating.

[The Football Ramble]