I’ll be forever grateful to my cousin who out of the blue invited me to go to the Mexico vs USA match in beautiful Mexico City where he lives. Muchisimas gracias primo!
Saturday. Meeting the team!
It was the day before the game and we were fortunate enough to receive a tip on where the United States Men’s National Team was staying that weekend. My cousin and I initially tried gaining access into the hotel speaking Spanish and asking the doormen, but were unfortunately turned away. I then slipped on my US jersey, took my sunglasses off, and committed to speaking only English and tried a second time to enter the hotel. The doormen happily opened the doors for me, and I even got a free mojito once I made it over to the bar. Gracias!
We spent an hour at the bar of the hotel chatting with some USA fans hailing from Washington DC. They too were told that the National team had their rooms booked at the hotel and were hoping to run into the players there. As the time passed doubt started creeping in on if the USMNT were actually staying at that hotel.
Luckily, I ran into a Borussia Dortmund fan at the hotel who weirdly had tabs on where the USMNT was and told me that the team had just left La Azteca and were on their way back. First to pull up were two motorbike policemen with lights flashing and a police car following them with the US bus behind it. There were about a dozen Dortmund fans outside with pictures and jerseys ready for the boy wonder Christian Pulisic to sign them. The 18-year old was easily the most popular player to get off the bus, with most of the team quickly making their way to the hotel. Christian was nice enough to sign all the gear offered for signature before finally heading into the hotel to rest up for game day.
Sunday Part 1. PREGAME!
Our group, which included my cousin and a few of his friends, decided to use Uber to get to the game which is surprisingly (well surprising to me) popular in Mexico City. I was sporting my USA polo-jersey while the rest of the group were all donning their Mexico green. “Where should we take this guy?” The Uber driver quickly quipped referring to me. Instead of taking me to the nearest bridge and throwing me off, we him drop us off at a bar right across the street from the Azteca. I zipped my hoodie up as we were arriving at the bar for security reasons. However, once I saw the heavy police presence and also downed some alcoholic courage, I removed my hoodie to reveal I was the only USA fan in the entire bar.
The reaction was much different than I expected as I overhead chatter behind me about getting a photo with me. “Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture with my son?” His son of about nine years of age, in an El Tri jersey, was the first of many pictures with various Mexico fans that day. While downing another XX, I heard a crescendo of sound coming from the bar. “EhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHH P***!!” I turned to see 4 American fans completely decked out in red white and blue walking past the bar being heckled by all the home fans in the bar. I leaned outside the window showing the US crest on my jersey and cheerfully greeted them as the only American at the bar.
Sunday Part 2. GAME!
Getting into the stadium was another undercover mission as I wore my Mexican jersey (I support Mexico too) over my USA jersey into the stadium. The reason for this was that I was told that if I had my USA jersey visible that the police would attempt to shepherd me towards the American section for my own security despite my preference to sit with my uncle and cousin. Once inside the gates, we watched the parade of USMNT fans be escorted by a light police escort into the stadium chanting while El Tri fans on both sides either whistled or chanted back at them. As it approached match time, a sea of green lined the stands of the 90k seater with around 900 USA fans providing a small red white and blue patch behind Ochoa’s first half net. I was on the same level of the American section, but on the other side of Ochoa’s first half net. Every time the red white and blue would begin an organized chant, the stadium would immediately drown them out with boos and whistles.
The first goal was a complete surprise, not just the quality of it but who the goalscorer was. My first thought when Michael Bradley stole the ball was “he’ll probably mess this up somehow.” Michael calmly showed me how naive I am. “GOOOOOOOOL!” I jumped up out of my seat exclaiming. The thrill of celebrating a US goal in the Azteca roared through me. Not just a goal though, but possibly the best goal scored by the USA in Mexico City. My uncle then recommended I sat down, and I quickly realized I had looks all around me and that I had also spilled a little beer on the poor lady in front of me. Reluctantly, I sat back down, still giddy from the goal watching the USA section go absolutely mental with Bradley celebrating below.
The second goal of the match had a slightly louder response, as right when Carlos Vela’s ball hit the back of the net the stadium absolutely erupted. I’ve been to a number of FC Dallas games, but I’ve never been showered with as much beer as was rained upon me in that minute. Booze and cups were flying everywhere as suddenly I didn’t feel as bad about the small amount of beer I spilled on the woman in front of me. I sipped my beer while having beer thrown everywhere, and had a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time I’d be absolutely doused in alcohol during the match. Thankfully it was the only beer shower I received that night. The remainder of the match was intensely nervous from an American perspective, but the fans in green were all experiencing more frustration than anything as their side was unable to break through the back five of the US.
Sunday Part 3. Post-game!
Once it became clear that Mexico was not going to break through, and that the crowd in the stadium had their fill of booze, it was high time that I started to zip up my hoodie to once again conceal my allegiance to protect against any frustrated and aggressive fellows. Rain began to fall as the final whistle blew, so instead of immediately heading out to the crowded exits and packed streets, we sat waiting for the rain to stop admiring the stadium as it emptied. Once the stadium was nearly empty I felt safe enough to remove my hoodie. As I was removing the layer I noticed an American flag in the section next to me, and saw that a dad was taking a picture of one of his daughters holding the American flag while his other daughter, donning a Mexican jersey, stood to the side. After introducing myself, he suggested I join in the picture and we snapped a few with ol’ glory.
We stayed and took more pictures, eventually grabbing an Uber back home once security told us to leave for the 5th time. Leaving the Azteca with a point felt surreal and I almost still can’t believe we escaped with one. The atmosphere was like nothing I’ve experienced and the people were all still very nice despite the intensity of the rivalry. The people I met and got to know on this journey made it an unforgettable experience and it’s bittersweet that the next time these teams meet in Mexico it will likely be four years from now for the next World Cup qualifier in Mexico City. You know, after we win that World Cup in Russia 2018.
Thank you so much for reading!! Did you go to the game as well by chance? Have you always wanted to go but not so sure about traveling to Mexico City for it? Have you traveled to a foreign country to see the national team play before? Let me know in the comments below!