In this June 14, 2018 photo Costa Rica fan Martin Gomez waves the a Costa Rican flag in the city of Samara, Russia, some 7,500 miles from his native home as he watched the opening ceremony to his first World Cup. (AP Photo/Luis Henao)

Costa Rica fans get surprise call about free World Cup trip

June 15, 2018 - 5:43 pm

SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Costa Rica fan Martin Gomez hung up the phone twice, thinking it was a prank call or a scam. But the third time he took the call, he cried with joy.

Gomez had just won an all-expenses paid trip to Russia to follow the national team at the World Cup. And he didn't even know that he had entered a competition.

It was all because he paid his phone bill on time. He was among three dozen Costa Rica fans who were awarded the same prize by the country's state telephone company.

For Gomez, it's his first World Cup and he will be in the stands when Costa Rica takes on Serbia on Sunday in Samara.

"When I sing the national anthem and wave the flag of my country ... the tears of joy with flow again. I'm about to realize this dream," he said.

The 52-year-old electrician and his 35 other compatriots who won the prize will then follow Costa Rica to St. Petersburg where the team takes on Brazil in Group E, and then to Nizhy Novgorod for the country's final group stage match against Switzerland.

Costa Rica is looking for another strong run in the tournament after advancing to the quarterfinals at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where the Central Americans were knocked out by the Netherlands on penalties.

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