Cielito Lindo

If Mexico has an anthem comparable to England’s incomparable Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, it is Cielito Lindo. The general message, from what I can gather, is Sing, Don’t Cry.  It perhaps sums up Mexico’s happy sense of pessimism when it comes to the chances of La Seleccion in a major tournament. It feautured continually today at the Estadio Azteca as Mexico took on Chile in the final game on Mexican soil before the World Cup. Of course, maybe I’ve misinterpreted what the 99,999 other fans in the stadium meant. On the other hand, maybe I was the only one of the 100,000 there who sees it as it is. Who knows.

I’m just glad I was there. If I had left Mexico, after more than five years, without seeing a game at the Azteca, I would never have forgiven myself. But I have now seen a game, and can put a tick to the last of the sporting ‘must sees’ in Mexico City. I’ve watched a bull fight at the largest bull ring in the world, the Plaza Mexico. I’ve not only watched, but participated in a sporting event at the Olympic Stadium. And now, I’ve watched Mexico at the Azteca. I’m a happy man.

The match itself failed to match the atmosphere, but Mexico performed fairly solidly without ever threatening to do anything overly spectacular. They largely controlled the game with some decent passing, mostly in the Chile half, and making regular goalscoring chances. Mid way through the second half, a Chilean player saw red and went straight through the back of Guardado. He saw red again, almost immediately, as the ref brought out a card from his pocket.

Because we arrived late at the stadium, we struggled to find anywhere to sit, and had in the end managed to get into the small Chilean enclosure. I’m a foreigner, you see. So we explained to the police preventing Mexicans getting into the enclosure. And we were permitted entry, and sat with a group of other Mexicans who had persuaded the police that they had good reason for admittance. Which meant that, upon the red card, cartons of beer, empty cartons, loud boos and jeers and, rather oddly, a shoe rained down from the stands above onto the Chilean fans, and us, as a form of tribal revenge for the rash challenge.

It really wasn’t terribly serious. The police watched. Took noted. And five minutes later a dozen riot police appeared and took away the miscreants. The game continued. But down to 10 men, Chile sat back and defended. And did so pretty well. Mexico had the lead, courtesy of a goal in the first half, and decided not to over commit. The game petered out somewhat, although both teams had a couple of decent chances before the final whistle blew . But the atmosphere remained upbeat.

Incidentally, I bought the cheapest tickets, like I always do. The best atmosphere and the best view are found in the upper balconies. They should be the priciest tickets if you ask me. But I’m not complaining. People often say that there should be television evidence to help the referee, but I disagree. The referee should be sat up with us fans in the eaves, looking down. You see every dive and deflection from up there. He could blow his whistle and yell out his verdict through the PA system, and us fans could let him know what to call the cheating so and so who’s just been caught out.

Still this was just a friendly, so there was not much call for any overly aggressive refereeing. Friendlies mean nothing. Unless you’re Bofo. Adolpho ‘Bofo’ Bautista has been the most consistently inconsistent Mexico player for years, despite reasonable success at domestic level. He also has a bit of a reputation for being a bit of an idiot. Which is why he was booed every time he touched the ball. The Mexico squad was reduced from 30 to 24 a few days ago, with one more player due to be cut before the final squad for South Africa is announced. Bofo was the favourite to be that unlucky man. Today he came on for Guardado. His last chance to impress and change Aguierre’s mind. But he was utterly useless. “Fuera Bofo!” was chanted repeated by all 100,000 plus fans in the stadium. Not a popular chap. I felt a little sorry for him. But his number, surely, is up.

Next stop for Mexico is at Wembley to face England in 8 days time. I won’t be wearing my Mexico top in the cantina for that game. I have my white top with the Three Lions on it, ready to be waved in my amigos faces as the goals fly in! Till then, you can see all of my photo on Flickr by clicking here. And the video will appear some time tomorrow. Oh, and my prediction for this game wasn’t too bad. I went for a 2-1 win for Mexico. The final result was 1-0 to Mexico. I picked the correct winner and the winning margin, if not the exact scoreline.

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