Soccer is like second religion in Mexico. You can’t have a conversation with a Mexican without at least one reference to the game, even if it comes in a form of a word play.
The most important matches are broadcast on national TV, there are at least half a dozen sports channels on cable/satellite TV, two or three of them dedicated solely on soccer and I’m not going into radio and papers here.
There are so many products and “add-ons” for the die-hard fans, from the teams’ T-shirts and outfits, to flags, cups, mugs and stamps with the right colors, to fill up a small city. And Mexico knows how to profit from this obsession, especially when it comes to this simple little thing called ticket sales. (for example, the cheapest tickets in Estadio Azteca cost 50 pesos, but inflate to 250 pesos and more, if clásico is approaching. 250 pesos times 100,000 and you can imagine what the stadium makes for a 90-minute game and for tickets alone)
There are four big teams in primera division that every Mexican knows (when I say every Mexican, I mean every Mexican – from a newborn baby to a great-grand-aunt who lives in Costa Rica, but still considers herself a Mexican): America, Chivas, Cruz Azul and Pumas. Of these four, only Chivas is located outside Mexico City – its home is Guadalajara. The games between them are called clásicos and garner the best ratings and highest number of spectators.
Of these four teams, America is the most hated, and envied. The team is owned by Televisa and its “home” games are held in Estadio Azteca (can you put two and two together?)
It’s at Estadio Azteca where I lost my virginity to futbol (I still haven’t forgiven the USA for vulgarizing football and stealing the name of the game. I mean, what’s wrong with rugby? Or is it too home-spun?)
Before setting my foot to the said stadium, I was like any other girl, not especially keen on soccer. I thought, what fun is there to watch 22 grown-up guys chasing a ball? It’s not like they are performing tricks:
they have only one ball to play with, unlike this guy:
These scenes happen once in a blue moon:
and there is just one Cuauhtemoc Blanco:
In all fairness, I wasn’t very impressed. I pushed myself through crowd, got to my seat, grabbed the pizza and soda, and pretended to be interested in the game below.
The players were running around and I listened half-heartedly to my husband’s explanations. And then somebody scored a goal. I understood it was “our” team when my husband jumped up and yelled “GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!” from the top of his lungs. His face had lit up and he was grinning so wide I could see each and every one of his 32 bright white teeth. I stood up, hesitating and did the wave with the rest of the 100,000 spectators.
That’s when it happened. Terry Pratchett describes it so much better in his book, Unseen Academicals - the unity, the sudden rush, thousands of people screaming with joy or disappointment, depending on their affiliation. I felt it. I went through me like… a wave… if you excuse my unimaginative wording.
I began to pay more attention to what my husband said about the game and to cheer more at the goals (it was a game of many goals) and after we got home, I made a decision.
I became a fixture to the Saturday or Sunday afternoons, sneaking into the downstairs living-room and taking my spot in the darkest corner to watch our team play. I paid very close attention to what the family said and learned a lot.
I still think futbol is fun, but now I see how much work the players put into the game, how much strength it takes to run around the field for an hour and a half. I can appreciate their efforts and how difficult it is to score, especially when you have these people just waiting out there to ruin it for you:
I understand and I value it, and I take pleasure int he game. Isn’t this what it’s all about?
Now, you tell me: is soccer worth one’s time? Do you watch soccer? Or any other sports?