Jose Torres - Americano

August 16, 2009

August 12th was the day of the biggest sporting event of the year for Mexicans: The USA-Mexico World Cup Qualifier. Mexico has historically had a stronger soccer team than the US; however, all that has changed in the past 10 years and now the US holds the edge in recent matches. For Mexicans, this is a bitter reality; soccer is the one thing that Mexicans once could unquestionably claim superiority to their richer northern neighbors. To give you an idea how important this matchup is for Mexicans, consider this: El Estadio Azteca holds 115,000 spectators and is the fifth largest stadium in the world. For the US-Mexico World Cup qualifier, it sold out weeks in advance; for a match played at 3:00pm on a Wednesday afternoon! The pride of an entire nation hung in the balance....and I was one of the 400 or so crazy Americans inside who would inspire the ire of a stadium full of futbol fanaticos.

The American fans were escorted into the stadium and up to our section by a large contingent of riot police. At the time this seemed like overkill; the mexicans had been friendly outside the stadium as we shared in chants and cheers. However, later on we would come to understand why this protection was needed.

For Americans, there is simply no reference to compare the sheer volume of noise generated inside of the Estadio Azteca. You have to yell at the top of your lungs just to hear your own voice. Every time the American section started a chant, we were drowned out within 30 seconds by masses of shouting and horn-blowing Mexicans.

From the moment of kickoff, the electricity in the stadium kicked up to another level. The US got off to an early lead, which silenced much of the stadium. Disgruntled Mexicans threw beer and plastic bottles over into our section as we celebrated. But that was nothing compared to the barrage of flying objects that befell our section when Mexico scored a few minutes later. I consider myself fortunate that I was only soaked with beer, as many others had it much worse.

With the score tied up 1-1 at halftime, the tension abated for a moment and I got the photo above with some Mexican fans. But there would be few pleasantries between us after the second half got under way. The US tired under a relentless Mexican assault (in addition to the smog of Mexico City, the high altitude, and scorching sun), and Mexico scored with time running out in the match. The crowd was sent into a frenzy. Mexico 2-1. Once the final whistle blew, the riot police hurriedly escorted us from our section as crazed Mexican fans unleashed a torrent of beer, bottles, food items, and even bags of urine. Police held up our entire section of the stadium to let us through, but that did not stop the tirade of insults and projectiles directed at us.

The scene outside the stadium was unreal. A barricade of shield-wielding police formed a protective cocoon around us, and marched us past hordes of wild Mexican fans. Once again, we dodged airborne objects and were subjected to verbal abuse. While I never really felt physically threatened, I've never felt so reviled in my life.

While we had taken the metro to the stadium, there was no way we could safely return in the same manner. Incredibly, our protection unit had another surprise waiting for us. We were led to a police provided riot-bus. I don't know about you, but I never imagined that I would find myself being escorted on a Mexican paddy-wagon! We packed aboard like sardines, and proceeded to drive through the streets of Mexico City, chanting and singing all the while. Eventually, we were let off at another metro station, away from the stadium and Mexican fans.

Every one of the American fans can agree that this was an unforgettable experience. The level of passion at the game was just incomparable to anything you can find in the States. While the Mexican fans lack sportsmanship and I wholeheartedly disagree with their behavior, I don't take it personally because they treat visiting fans from many places in the same way. When rival Mexico City clubs play at the Azteca, they have to be escorted into the stadium through different parts of the city, such is the venom that their fans have towards their opponents. In conclusion, any brave fan of the US National team owes it to themself to experience this matchup in the flesh.


  1. Excellent writing Adam. How did you get that footage of us in the police blockade after the match?

    I agree with this statement: "While I never really felt physically threatened, I've never felt so reviled in my life."


  2. Hey man! Glad you liked it. I found that youtube clip through a bigsoccer post...I think it was taken by a Mexican.

  3. what an experience! if i had the time off work, i would have joined you for this! it might have been scary, sure... but there's always safety in numbers :)