Mexico 2 – Costa Rica 0

On Saturday evening, Mexico played Costa Rica in a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and, by the good graces of a few friends, I was able to go.  The near-capacity crowd, mostly clad in the green of Mexico was incredibly loud, louder than any crowd I’ve ever heard.  From the moment we entered the stadium, nearly full an hour before the game, the noise — mostly made by artificial whistles and horns freely sold throughout the stadium — was deafening.  And although it rose and fell over the course of the next three hours (possibly as a function of the availability of beer and the prevalence of “the wave”), the omni-present drone permeated every facet of my experience.

As a fan of American football, it’s hard for me to imagine how such noise wouldn’t create a home field advantage.  Of course, in football (as opposed to fútbol), where the fields are slightly smaller and verbal communication between players is de rigueur, the noise can disrupt the coordination that is essential for gameplay.  In fútbol, however, where communication is limited in use, and even then to mostly hand gestures, I wonder what effect the noise actually has on gameplay.  Does it motivate the players?  Does it add extra adrenaline?  Does calling the opposing goalkeeper a whore (by 100,000 people in unison, mind you) get in his head?  I don’t know… though, as the noise level seemed to be independent of who had the ball, I tend to think that may be the sheer volume of the noise isn’t a deciding factor in the game as it can be with football.  Then what role does it play?

Of course, that’s not to say that there isn’t a huge advantage afforded to fútbol players on their home field (altitude, pollution, not traveling, familiar field, etc.), and not that having such a large noisy crowd can intimidate opponents and officials (I’m sure it does)… but it seems that, perhaps, the key role provided by the deafening sounds of the fans is to enhance the excitement and enjoyment of those same fans attending.  Well, if I am ever given the opportunity to play professional soccer, perhaps I’ll find out for sure.

 

México, D.F.

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