Abel Pacheco, the president of Costa Rica, said that football is above politics, supporting plans for a friendly Costa Rica-Iran soccer match, which one Costa Rican deputy said should not go ahead because of Iran's controversial nuclear energy program.
"Football is one of the few ways that human being can come together in friendship. It is a symbol of unity among peoples," Pacheco told a press conference in San Jose.
On Monday evening, Aida Faingezicht, a Costa Rican legislator, called on Hermes Navarro, head of the Costa Rican Football Federation (Fedefut), to cancel the match, saying that it was inappropriate to play sport in Iranian captial Tehran while the country in the middle of a controversy over its nuclear program and its stance on nearby Israel.
Costa Rica should suspend the trip "as a way of expressing respect to the humanitarian values and tradition of peace that has characterized Costa Rica and earned it a great respect in the international community".
Pacheco said that Navarro had his vote of confidence in whatever decision he took, adding that a head of state should not interfere with purely sporting matters. The football match is due on March 1, as part of Costa Rica's warm-up for the 2006 Germany World Cup.
Costa Rica's most read newspaper published an editorial supporting Faingezicht, describing the plan as a grave error.
Navarro responded with a statement published on the Fedefut website that there is no going back on the decision and that Costa Rica was above all political, racial or religious prejudice.
Separately, Alexandre Guimaraes, manager of the national team announced his choice of 16 players for the March 1 match, including Paulo Cesar Wanchope, 29, one of Costa Rica's most celebrated forwards.