The Art of Mejenga

soccer ball being kicked on teal bg

How to play a Costa Rican pick-up game

Rumor has it that in every village in Costa Rica, square footage aside, a person is bound to find three pillars of the community: a church, a bar and a football field. That second one may be a park. Depends on who you’re asking. The last one is a testament to the country’s national sport. The passion of the people. And there’s no better way to witness aforesaid passion than by watching a good old-fashioned pick-up game. Easy to spot—just look for a crowd of people ages 2 to 90 cheering on another group of people ages 2 to 90 kicking a round object and odds are you’ve got yourself a mejenga (meh-HEHNG-gah).

A word of caution: This is not your average pick-up game. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the beloved mejenga. The only requirement is that the field in question be larger than a bathroom stall, give or take a few feet. And just as no two bathroom stalls are the same, you can bet money on never playing or watching the same mejenga twice. With unspoken rules, no refs, a boundless range of players per team and more often than not a lack of actual football goals to kick the ball into, there’s a certain amount of chaos that each match invites onto the field. What follows is a guide to some of the more spirited mejengas you may or may not find yourself partaking in.

Ratings in Xs based on the amount of chaos that will likely occur in each mejenga.

Field: Basketball court

Rules: One point for hitting the ball against the basketball hoop pole

Players: Anyone with a round object that could theoretically be dribbled in a football-like fashion

Chaos: X

Cut out of the top of a basketball hoop digitally overlayed in a light red coloring.

Field: Office break room

Rules: First team to shatter all of the coffee mugs wins

Players: Sales vs. marketing

Chaos: X X X X

Cutout of a classic-style vending machine holding various candy bars and snacks. It is overlayed in a light aqua blue coloring

Field: Your friend’s cousin’s garage

Rules: Winner gets the last bag of Morenitos

Players: You, your friend, your friend’s cousin, the neighborhood kid that appears out of thin air every Friday after dinner

Chaos: X X

Cutout of a plastic bag of Morenitos, an individually wrapped caramel-like candy commonly eaten in Costa Rica. The lettering is in Spanish. The bag is overlayed in a light red coloring.

Field: Anywhere and everywhere (aka a mejenga loco)

Rules: Just kick the fucking ball

Players: Anyone vs. everyone

Chaos: X X X X X

Cutout of the moon overlayed in a light aqua blue color.

Field: Whalebone HQ

Rules: 2x points for each goal scored before the yellow dog steals the ball

Players: The Whalebone gang vs. the yellow dog

Chaos: X X X

cutout of a stack of 17 Whalebone magazines with the top quarter of the colored spines with the word "WHALEBONE" in white visible. The cutout is overlayed in a light red coloring.