It’s annoying to be outnumbered on your home turf, but it’s better than being outscored.
It was clear from the moment we got into San Antonio last Wednesday for the U.S.-Mexico friendly — which I insisted on billing as “REVENGE AT THE ALAMO(dome)” — that the Mexican supporters outnumbered American fans. Green jerseys and sombreros filled the streets downtown and surrounded the Alamodome.
On a side note, the amount of Mexican fans wearing sombreros made me want to laugh in the face of the next bleeding heart, attention starved college activist who cries stereotyping at a fraternity or sorority fiesta-themed party at which some students wear sombreros. They can still argue that it’s cultural appropriation in some contexts, certainly, but to claim that sombreros aren’t an accurate representation of Mexican culture? Like they always do? Yeah, the thousands of Mexicans who packed into the Alamodome to celebrate their country seemed to disagree. Sombreros were, aside from national team jerseys, by far the most prevalent symbol of Mexican fandom. So maybe it’s just a hat and who cares? But by all means, keep crying over fucking headwear. That sounds like the best use of your fleeting time in college. I digress.
Even the Bud Light Up For Whatever pre-match party, where we tailgated the game, was a pro-Mexico crowd. This was not the home game I had hoped it would be. Thankfully, I had plenty of Bud Light to drink, my beer of choice for sporting events, and also my beer of choice when I’m inevitably alleviating sports sadness.
There were still plenty of American fans around, but I was a little disappointed, though not that surprised, that what was technically a Team USA home game would instead see USMNT supporters in the minority. Mostly, this was a disappointment because my current geographic proximity to all my favorite sports teams generally necessitates that if I see them in person, it’s on the road. Being surrounded by my own fans has become rare, and something to relish. (And by relish, I mean I can safely get twice as drunk as normal without worrying about some pissy opposing fan hulking out on me, or having to figure out how to post bail for a friend locked up in a strange, out-of-town jail.)
The attendance splits weren’t too dramatic, though. Maybe sixty-forty Mexico based on what I observed in and around the dome. It was a neutral site game, essentially, which is what it was probably intended to be. That ended up making the day more fun, truth be told, because as much as I would have loved to bask in the deafening roars of America’s only identifiable rallying cry – U-S-A! U-S-A! – the Mexican fans were far more interesting, fun, and entertaining than the Americans.
Team USA fans behaved as if this could have been any sport. There was lots of yelling in the typical “FUCK YEAH SPORTS! GO MY TEAM!” American fandom sort of way. Maybe the American Outlaws, whom I unfortunately did not get to interact with, add a little more flavor to the proceedings, but the average U.S. fan did not. For all the problems with trying to make soccer more popular in America, attending this game gave me the feeling that figuring out how exactly to get American fans to root for soccer is one of the biggest issues. Do you try to replicate European (and specifically English) club fandom? Do you treat it like a football game? These aren’t new questions, to be sure, but it was interesting just how much the lack of any consensus seemed to be a problem when actually seeing it in person (aside from the large, loud, and rowdy American Outlaw section). It’s not that cheering for Team USA wasn’t still incredibly fun, just that it was disjointed, which made it sort of weak next to such an established soccer culture like Mexico.
That’s because the Mexicans were having a damn party. They sang, they danced, they cheered with far more joy than bravado (a very pleasant change of pace). And everyone knew what to do, and when. I started to wonder, “How are they the country where people get murdered over soccer?” They were the happiest fans I had ever shared a stadium with. I didn’t see a single intense, inarticulate and questionably literate, dead-eyed drunk Mexican fan with a look so at once furious and constipated that it seemed like the buildup to the game was going to make him barf pure testosterone, the way I would see that type of fan at, say, any SEC football game.
Granted, even though this was a rivalry game, it was a friendly match, and despite the fact that Mexican fans outnumbered the Americans, they still weren’t on their own soil, in terms of who was technically the home team. Maybe a game in Mexico City — or even Los Angeles, where I’ve heard fantastic stories about the fans in the Dodger Stadium bleachers, many of whom are Mexican — would be different. I don’t know. But Texas is a friendly state, and the fans on both sides were all incredibly pleasant. No soccer riots were going to go down that day, which would have been cool to witness, until I inevitably died a horrible death in them.
Once we were taken to our seats, courtesy of Bud Light and Whatever, USA, we spent the next ten minutes mostly in awe.
Hell of a way to see my first international/professional soccer match.
Throughout the first half, the American side (which didn’t start, or even eventually play, Julian Green, which sucked) was pretty decently outplayed by Team Mexico. DeAndre Yedlin, who I was probably most excited to watch aside from Green, had two absolutely dreadful touches that immediately became turnovers, and the defense bailed out the Yanks more than once. Despite the fact that Mexico didn’t capitalize, the Mexican fans were the consistent echoes through the first forty-five. And, thanks to the dome, they were loud as hell.
The most common Mexican chant was, of course, “Ehhhhhh PUTO,” which the fans shout after every goal kick by the opposing goaltender. There’s some debate over whether or not the chant is offensive, because though it translates literally to “male prostitute,” it also doubles as a Spanish slang equivalent for “fag.” FIFA investigated its use during the last World Cup, whatever that means, but eventually ceased the investigation. I’m not really sure what conclusion to draw from that information one way or the other, but FIFA is super down with slave labor, so I wouldn’t exactly consider them a moral authority. Mexican fans, meanwhile, claimed that something is lost in translation, and the whole thing is overblown. Regardless, my shouting of, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” after the chant got a lot of laughs from the Mexican fans, so I guess the only thing I can really take away from all that with any certainty is that Seinfeld is a timeless, transcendent classic.
The second half saw the American side come out swinging. They played far more aggressively than they did at any point during the first half, and were rewarded almost right away with a goal from Stanford’s Jordan Morris in the 49th minute. Now the Mexican fans were getting less festive and more ornery. The second American goal came twenty-three minutes later, courtesy of the much-maligned turf jumping up and biting the defender marking Juan Agudelo near the top of the box, and leaving him WIDE open. I lost my shit.
Dos a cero.
That was basically it. The Mexican fans were understandably pissed for a minute – the fan nearest to me was real salty; he chirped about how Agudelo’s strike was poor, and that the goal wasn’t scored on American merit, but rather because of a lapse by their goaltender (“Yeah, he’s a real puto,” I replied) – but, God bless them, they were dancing and singing again by the end of the game. For what it’s worth, I would have been far more upset, despite being a fraction of the soccer fan any of them were, because I’m an American dick. Legitimately, though, the Mexican fans were basically 1A for the best part of the match, right after the American win. From now on, any time they aren’t playing the USMNT (or it doesn’t affect the USMNT adversely) I’m cheering for El Tri. The fans are too much fun to root against. It was a genuine pleasure, and a wholly new and fun sporting experience, to share a stadium with the Mexican supporters.
The other highlight of the night was having beers after the game with USMNT players Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando. We randomly bumped into them at a bar on the River Walk and ended up closing it down with them. Also they gave us their pizza. So, clearly, those guys are cool as shit.
An American win, lots of Bud Light, amazing seats (courtesy of Bud Light), great fans on both sides, partying with U.S. players, and another item crossed off the sports bucket list. Pretty solid day..