Fútbol America

Well, it’s been quite a day… bought some furniture from a guy selling on a nearby street corner and then went to see my first fútbol game!  I feel the need for sleep right now, but I wanted to write a little, even if only to capture my current thoughts….

America (del D.F.) vs. Las Chivas de Guadalajara at Estadio Azteca. Tickets to the game were arranged by the nice folk at Comexus, who are our handlers for this whole Fulbright experience. The short version is that Las Chivas won, 2-1. There were some exciting plays and the game was tremendous fun to watch. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures because we were told not to bring cameras.

The longer version? Well, the experience of going to the game really had nothing to do with the outcome. In part, it starts with my impressions of fútbol in México… the ubiquitous jerseys (America, Las Pumas, etc.) and flag that abound on the street and in markets (though I don’t recall ever seeing anything related to fútbol in the professional workplace…..). Before we went, Comexus told us not to wear yellow or red, which are the team colors, or to bring cameras or belts(!). So… I didn’t quite know what to expect from the game, whether it would just be passionate fans, or a less-than-civil war.

Estadio Azteca is very large – over 100k, says Wikipedia.  On our way in, we passed dozens of vendors, selling food, paraphernalia, and offering to guard belongings… such as belts(!).  Inside, we were seated in the corner at the top of the first section of the lower deck and surrounded by a mix of fans, mostly dressed in the yellow and blue of the home-town America, but some in the red of Las Chivas.  The family in front of us were split, the father a Chivas fan and his young sons for America.  (In the top deck of the opposite endzone, there were several large sections of Chiva-red.)  

Also of note, the stadium featured prodigious use or chain link and barbed-wire fencing.  Between our section and the field were not one, but two(!) fences topped in barbed-wire, with a deep, dry moat, in-between.  And to our right, was a section of America fans entirely surrounded by barbed wire fencing and a ring of riot-gear-clad police officers.  We conjectured during the game as to why these fans (in particular) were fenced in… I don’t have an answer, so I’ll leave it up to you.  For what it’s worth, they seemed quite well behaved.

I don’t have much to say about the game (if the other Fulbrighters do, I’ll provide a few links), but mid-way through the second half, the score was tied 1-1.  Darkness had fallen and the stadium was illuminated by lights around upper rim.  Looking up into the Chiva sections on the far side, we noticed that people were lighting bright red flares… I assume the same as those used on freeways… and small ‘roman-candle’ fireworks.  At first, they waved the flares to the rhythm of the chants, but then — and I still can’t believe this happened — they threw the lit flares down into the lower deck, which was full of people.  By the light of these still-burning flares, we could see fans in the lower sections scurrying to put them out.  Perhaps more shocking than this disregard was that the game continued uninterrupted, as, perhaps a dozen, perhaps more, flares rained into the stands.  

The rest of the game was, for the most part, without any such scares.  There were no fights that I could see, nor dangerous crowds, or threatening gestures… which is of note considering the contrast that most of the stadium featured a mix of fans for both teams, including many families.  But it seems clear that the stadium is prepared for violence, and also that the crowds of fans are capable of some seriously poor judgment in regards to the safety of themselves and others.  

I’ll chalk this up as “a great experience” — but I have to admit, that there’s more than just a little voice in the back of my head that wonders whether the view we had today from the stands was of more than the game, whether it was a view into a part of the Mexican psyche.  I wonder just how lucky we were.


México, D.F.

4 Responses

  1. turu ru ru tu ru rururuuu [alarm]

    Mike I think Mexican character is way more diverse and complex than the behavior of futbol fanatics at stadium. Please be very careful with generalisations, remember there’re plenty Mexican psyches such as there’re plenty US psyches.

    Happy Monday for you!

  2. I think that’s a great point and of course I agree that such a generalization of the whole would be a gross error!

    At the same time, however, I interpreted what I saw as a tacit institutional acceptance of the rowdy behavior — it wasn’t just a few rowdy fans, but an atmosphere that permitted them to do so. (For example, the teams/officials could have stopped or paused the game, especially since one of the flares landed within a few feet of the end line; the security officers could have entered the sections to remove the groups of fans lighting the fireworks; or stadium officials could have anticipated the flares and done more to prevent fans from bringing them into the stadium — where is the line at which such behavior becomes unacceptable?) Clearly, though, there is quite a difference between the vast majority of fans sitting in the mixed sections, who seemed to not just peacefully co-exist but also to enjoy each other’s presence.

    I’ll keep looking for any others that write up their own interpretations of the day… after all, my description was only a small part of a much larger and more overwhelming (wonderfully so!) experience.

  3. Mike,

    I’m from Mexico City and currently study in Arizona.
    I’ve been to that stadium many times, and yes, it’s a great experience.

    As you know, soccer plays a very important role in the mexican culture. Let’s say that soccer is to Mexico what football is to the U.S. Going to see a soccer game is one of the most entertaining things mexicans do.

    It was good that you didn’t get to see any kind of trouble. It’s sad when people fight outside the stadium and the police has to intervene.

    I would recommend to every person who visits Mexico City to go to one of those soccer games. They will have fun and appreciate part of our folklore. Plus the stadium is very impressive too. Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Madonna and even the Pope John Paul II have been part of the history of the stadium.

  4. That’s a very good recommendation.

    For visitors, the stadium is easily accessible via public transport on the tren ligero, and the fútbol season seems to last for most of the year. The crowd is peaceful, though I’d avoid wearing the colors of the opposing team, if possible. In addition, avoid bringing cameras or wearing a belt… as neither are officially permitted inside.

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