Mexican Football

I joined in a forum conversation last week about Mexican football, and how crazy they are about the game. Or not, as my argument went. Although to be fair, it’s not that I was arguing that Mexicans aren’t entirely football crazy. My point was more about my expectations and perceptions of football in Mexico specifically, and in Latin American countries in general, when I first arrived in the country.

In England, we are football crazy. Especially compared to other European nations. We have 40,000 registered football clubs in the UK. Brazil, in second place, has 10,000 registered football clubs. We have a four division league system with 92 professional clubs. The big Premier League teams sell out virtually every Saturday, regardless of how potentially poor their opposition. Even most small clubs in the Premier League pull in 20,000 each week. In fact only two clubs this season have averaged less than that. Twelve teams average attendance that are more than 90% their stadium capacity, with only three averaging less than 80%. The lowest averages 72%.

I went to Estadio Azul on Saturday to see Cruz Azul play Estudiantes. It’s not one of the big games, but then there are only a few big games at all. That being when Chivas, America or Pumas pay a visit. If I described the stadium as being half full, I’d be being generous. And lying. There were probably fewer than 10,000 fans in the stadium. A small lower division London club such as Crystal Palace or QPR will almost always get in more than 15,000.

So Mexicans aren’t crazy about their footy? Well, they are. But I expected them to be at least as crazy about the beautiful game as we are in England. And they’re not. Not even close. In England, second or third tier sports such as rugby will attract larger crowds.CA

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  • An Englishman here to back you up, Gary. I think every country has its share of incredibly passionate fans, but I do agree that England has more of them than Mexico. The Mexican league is not the strongest and the national team has never done well in the World Cup, so while people love the game, they don’t have a lot to cheer about. I think the national team is more popular than any club side (except for the hardcore Americanistas and Chivas fans). Mexicans don’t honestly believe they can win the World Cup, because they’ve never been past the Quarter-finals. They do love football, but half of them would rather be watching La Liga or the Champions League. Most of them adopt either Real Madrid (largely because of Hugo Sanchez) or Barcelona (Rafa Marquez), and their mentality during a World Cup reminds me of the Scots – let’s give it our best shot and have a laugh.

    • I think you may have a point regards the lack of success and belief. Another odd thing here, to an Englishman at least, is the number of football shorts of foreign clubs that get worn. I can understand Barcelona and Madrid. I can even understand Stuttgart, Eindhoven and Arsenal shirts. But when did a Mexican play for Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Ac Milan????

  • I´m not sure attendance at any game is a good yardstick to judge the level of Mexican insanity. There may be less interest in particular professional teams, but everyone plays, and national games are followed intensely. When a major game is televised, you can walk down any commercial street and follow the game, which every stall holder will be watching on a portable TV. And everyone else: without getting into details, I have it from highly reliable sources that even the local gay bathhouse — which normally screens porn — was showing porn films were showing the recent Mexico-El Salvador game. And the guys were watching the game, not each other.

    As Carlos Monsivias put it, “In Mexico there is futbol. Everything else is secondary.”

    • I would say that live attendances are a very good yardstick, but I do accept that they aren’t the only yardstick, nor is it necessarily the best yardstick. I think my point might be getting missed, although it has to be said I’ve spread my point across a forum and a blog….

      I’m not arguing that Mexicans are not really, really into their football. We English are reasonably well known in Europe for pretty pretty barmy about our footy. And this post, and my comments on the forum, really reflected my views about the perceptions and expectations that I had when I first arrived in Mexico City. From watching one World Cup in 1986 on TV and seeing many reruns of the 1970’s tournament, from the reputation of ‘Latin passion’ and their love of the game, I arrived here expecting at least something similar to how football is revered in England.

      And Mexico, DF specifically, hasn’t lived up to those expectations. It’s not as football mad a city as London. In my time here there have been games at the Azteca with fewer spectators than England take with them for meaningless friendlies in Denmark. But as I’ve said, it’s not just attendance figures…..part of a post I made on a forum, regards the Mexico/Argentina game in the WC in 2006:

      I was working that day, and went from Nino Heroes in the centre of the city, at about kick off time, and travelled down to the deep south where I lived. I got home with about half an hour to go. Everywhere I went there were plenty of people, many just milling around in the streets. By plenty, I mean hundreds. At Taxquena, it was almost normal. The game was now into the second half. I went out at full time to get some stuff from the shops before extra time kicked off. and there were still plenty of people about, although far less than before.

      I’m quite sure that all the bars had the game on, and I don’t need convincing that lots of people watched the game. My point is though, that the game didn’t turn the city into a ghost town. Plenty of life was to be found out on the streets.

  • I’m not forgetting that at all. A cheap ticket to a game in England costs as much as ten times as much as it does in Mexico. But then there is a greater gap between poor and rich in the two countries. But then again, Mexico City has fewer pro football clubs shared around a population three times bigger. Fans in England have been known to splash their entire lifes savings on a single game. The comparison is harder to make economically and socially than you might think at first glance.

    One of the arguments I made in the forum, but didn’t mention here was my experience during the last World Cup. During the mega match between Argentina and Mexico, the streets were still very busy. As extra time beckoned, there was less traffic, both automotive and foot, but there was still traffic. During a World Cup game, London becomes a complete ghost town.

  • You are forgetting the fact that Cruz Azul fans (or Mexican fans in general for that matter) are a lot poorer than English fans. A ticket in Mexico can cost four or five times the daily minimum wage…

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