Where in the World Cup: Surrounded by football in Mexico City

In Mexico, we often say there are three things we shouldn’t talk about: religion, politics and football. While the first two seem pretty standard, football might seem a bit odd on that list. However, if you’ve ever been to a football game in Mexico, or if you have ever been in the country during a World Cup, you know that Mexicans take football very seriously. It is an essential part of our culture.

There are three things to know about Mexican football, whether you like the sport or not. First, the Cruz Azul Futbol Club will always lose, and it will probably happen in the last few minutes of the game. Second, Club América is a team that you are either passionate about or absolutely despise. Third, if the Mexican national team is playing, you stop whatever it is you are doing and watch the game.

Even if you are not a big fan of football, there is no way you will be unaware of what is going with each team if you are in Mexico because of how much football surrounds the nation — we are in constant contact with it. People wear teams’ jerseys everywhere and games are always on TVs.

For myself, growing up with a brother who is a massive Real Madrid fan, I now know names of people who played years ago without even being a huge fan myself. However, the fact that he supports a non-Mexican team doesn’t stop my brother from knowing everything that’s going on in Mexican football. If anything, it has opened his eyes and allowed him to understand how intertwined all football clubs are, which has made it easy for him to know dozens of players and follow their careers. Besides, he is not the only one who’s a big fan of an international team. I know several Mexicans who support a Mexican football club and an international one too. And, if they’re only fans of one or the other, they still know what is going on in other football leagues, which allows people to talk about the sport and bond over football. My brother does this often with my uncles and cousins.

So, imagine how crazy it gets in Mexico City, where I am for the summer, when the World Cup is happening. Although a bit overwhelming for those who don’t know about the Mexican football passion, being here during the World Cup is always extremely fun.

Mexicans are often more opinionated about football than they are about politics. Juan Carlos Osorio, the current manager of the Mexican team, was strongly disliked before the World Cup. My mom would say that it seemed like he wanted the other team to win. After beating Germany, however, he was praised and loved by the same people who denounced him. While we do love football, Germany is a powerhouse in the sport — it would be an upset to beat them, which we did. It was a big surprise, and one we celebrated as if we had won the World Cup. As ‘El Chicharito’ — striker Javier Hernández — said, “Imaginemos cosas chingonas”: “Let’s imagine great things.”

However, despite the criticism shown towards the national squad, football does unite us all. After beating Germany, thousands of Mexicans made their way to places like The Angel of Independence — a Mexican symbol and very well-known monument in Mexico City — and the Zocalo, the main square in the city, to celebrate the victory. We wore the Mexican flag’s colours with pride, as Mexicans are always very proud when our team does something great. When we defeated South Korea, Mexicans celebrated at the same spot, but this time sharing the road with those celebrating Pride as the World Cup festivities coincided with the national LGBTQ+ march that had been scheduled on that day months ago. Then, when we qualified thanks to Korea’s victory over Germany, Mexicans carried their Korean friends on their shoulders and celebrated them. Mexican fans even stood outside South Korea’s embassy in Mexico City and kept chanting “Coreano, hermano, ya eres mexicano”: “Korean, brother, you are Mexican now."

And while not everyone celebrates in such a big way, Mexicans are brought together through football. We watch the games at our offices; schools come together to watch the games and people stay at home to catch a glimpse of the national team on the world stage. Families will have big breakfasts together. Friends will organize small parties to drink beer or tequila and spend time together. Even restaurants will have breakfast specials and hotels will have special screenings.

So, while football is indeed a controversial topic in Mexico that should perhaps be avoided at any other time, we are all one nation supporting one team during the World Cup. We celebrate our victories together, cry over our losses together, question the decisions of the manager together and, most importantly, are proud of our team and of our country together. Because it is during the World Cup that we all proudly say we’re Mexican.