Men Don't Cry: Mexican Soccer
by Monica Belen
Dozens, hundreds of men suffered in unison, rivers ran through their eyes. They stuttered when trying to speak. They drooled from the terrible pain. They consoled themselves, embraced, others kneeling hit the floor with rage and looked at the sky screaming: why? One or the other, in solitude, sitting, seemed in shock looking at infinity, tears shedding from his eyes. Yes, the suffering was widespread. Suddenly an indifferent and feminine voice is heard: "Men, that is not very macho to cry for losing a soccer game."
The ball game is not new in Mexico. the Mayans (2400 BC), Zapotecs and Aztecs (1521 AD) played the so-called "Ball Game", which consisted of hitting a ball weighing almost 9 pounds with the hip, elbow or knee. The ball was made of elastic vegetable fiber and rubber. It was inserted into a kind of stone ring placed on the side walls, even just touching the outline of the ring gave points. It was the playful representation of the triumph of light over darkness, of the sun over moon. it is not clear if the winners or losers were sacrificed in honor of the gods, however, there was sacrifice of one or more players. With the conquest in 1521 AD, this game was prohibited due to its religious significance. It was not until the year 1880, that the football arrived in Mexico from the hand of the English miners who settled in the center of the country, specifically in Hidalgo (a mining state par excellence) where the large mining companies exploited silver and other metals. It was there in 1887, that one of the first football teams emerged. It was so easy to play, that it quickly became popular. The first soccer team was founded in Pachuca, capital of that state, in 1901. This team is the oldest in the country, still in force as "LOS TUZOS DEL PACHUCA" and has won several national championships.
Since those days, the fans and the players have grown exponentially. There are currently 5 leagues with 269 registered teams, 18 of which are the most emblematic of the country: EL AMÉRICA, ATLAS, LAS CHIVAS DEL GUADALAJARA, LEÓN (current champions), LOS RAYADOS DEL MONTERREY, LOS PUMAS of the National Autonomous University of Mexico , THE TIGERS of the Autonomous University of the state of Nuevo León, THE BLUE CROSS MACHINE, THE RED DEVILS OF TOLUCA (I leave you the task to find out the meaning of their names) among others and all of them with their stadiums. Virtually every state in the country has a soccer team in either the 1st or 2nd division.
Talking about soccer is like talking about religion or deep preferences. When you say that you are a fan of one or such team, people classify you. The team with the most followers in Mexico is LAS CHIVAS DEL GUADALAJARA. Followed by LAS ÁGUILAS DEL AMÉRICA, these two teams are rivals by nature, having memorable games and crowds that end in brawls or great national celebration. There is a saying "to have the shirt on" that is allusive to football and refers to the loyalty that one can have towards someone or something, in this case to the team. The cheers are moved by the dozens throughout the country supporting their team, and they are not sponsored! There is so much fervor and passion that is generated that entire families arrive in a caravan from one end of the country to another. They organize themselves at the national level, disguise themselves, have preferential prices in games and special places in stadiums.
The most famous soccer stadium in Mexico is EL ESTADIO AZTECA; it is located in the south of Mexico City and is nicknamed “EL COLOSO DE SANTA ÚRSULA”. It has capacity for 87,753 seated spectators, almost the 90,000 that the Estadio de Wembley in London, compared to 20,789 at Madison Square Garden. This Mexican colossus has witnessed the 1970 World Cups and saw Pelé and 1986 become a legend. It has also been the scene of countless concerts by groups such as U2, Michael Jackson, Elton John, among many others.
Men who become gods, are role models for millions of people throughout the country and the world. Hugo Sánchez, Rafael Márquez, Javier Hernández "El chicharito", Cuauhtémoc Blanco, Jorge Campos, among others. And what to say when The National Team plays? It is madness in the country and in any corner of the world where there is a Mexican (even if he does not like soccer) at that moment he is a fan of The Selection; , it is part of the national identity to wear the shirt of the national team, as well as the flag of Mexico.
In short, for this and much, much more, football unites and separates, produces deep happiness or sadness. It is a bittersweet mixture that translates into euphoria, absolute passion. You may not like it, but it will never leave you indifferent when it is spoken of in Mexico. Yes, Mexican men also cry, and a lot, when they see a ball roll into the net.