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.