Well, that´s one I won´t soon forget!
Trip Start Jul 21, 2009
147Trip End Apr 28, 2010
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I knew ahead of time that the stadium is massive --holding 105,000 to 114,000 people, depending on your source. I knew ahead of time that US supporters would be a small minority. I knew ahead of time that the stadium had a reputation for being hard not only on players, but on fans as well. What I didnīt know ahead of time was that the predicted total number of US fans was between 400 and 1000. Total. In all. Out of the 110,000 people there. In other words: not many.
One of Erikīs friends refered us to a popular soccer forum, where we found out about a meet up of Americans the night before the game
Getting to the stadium in the morning was not a problem. Alongside a bit of good-natured joking, several Mexico fans chatted with us, and even volunteered advice for finding the light rail train where we needed to transfer. Arriving at the stadium, we picked up our tickets at will call, and explored the mass of green-red-and-white souvineer stands outside the gates. It was at this point that we first began to realize that in the midst of all the green (Mexico colors) WE were the tourist attraction. Dozens of Mexico fans stuck cameras in our face, or asked to pose with us for a picture. Once inside the gate to the stadium complex, the fan photos continued, but they were now joined by professional video cameras. I donīt know how many TV shows I was on today, but we did an interview with at least one, and others followed us for several minutes --clearly waiting for something to happen.
Through this point in the day, everyone had been very friendly, and the taunting was quite good-natured. As we approached our specific enterance (Rampa 4), there was a bit of a commotion ahead of us. We could see a small group of Americans being taunted a bit more loudly by the Mexicans
At the top of the ramp, we discovered that at least one of the rumors was true --there was a separate section for Americans. Regardless of what your ticket said, this was where you would be sitting if you were American. The upper level of the stadium is sub-divided into 3 levels, and we had the twop two levels of one section. On the left, our section was blocked by an iron fence, approximately 8 feet tall. The top was lined with barbed wire. Police, in full riot gear, stood shoulder to shoulder along the fence. In front, the same combination of fencing, wire and riot police separated us from the fans below. By comparison, the right side was vulnerable. No fence, only shoulder to shoulder police. Itīs hard to say at that point if this made me feel better or worse.
We were in our seats 2 hours and 20 minutes before the game started
As game time approached, the atmosphere began to change markedly. Over an hour before game time, the stadium was 75-80% full and LOUD. The same people who, individualaly, had seemed friendly outside became a loud screaming mass, with obscenities and inappropriate gestures to boot. By kickoff, the stadium was crazy. But still... in a (mostly) good way.
Eight minutes into the game, the near-impossible happened: the US scored a goal. Our tiny section erupted, and for the next 12 minutes the stadium was -relatively - quiet. Then, after a bad call against the US, the stadium started to shake as Mexico scored their first goal. Shortly thereafter, things began to fly. As the woman in front of me was hit by a noisemaker, I heard a shout from behind and turned around just in time to catch half a cup of beer in my face
Additional riot police came into our section at this point, and all 3 sides were now two-deep with police. There were also a few press in our section, taking video and pictures, and John and I did our third interview. This set the tone for the rest of the game. The US and Mexico went back and forth, with several questionable calls and missed opportunities, and played a pretty good game for approximately the next hour.
With about 10-15 minutes to go there was an apparent injury on the field, which almost immediately turned into an altercation between the players. As the refs broke up the fight on the field, the fight in the stands started in full force. When Mexico scored their second goal a few minutes later, our section was under full attack. Cups of beer, mystery liquids of all colors, cups, noisemakers and other unidentified objects were flying in from all directions. One guy even caught a drumstick. The riot police all had their shields up (perhaps attempting to block the flying objects???) but it had little or no effect
So, with 5 minutes left in regulation, the police came to the conclusion that they may not be able to hold back the Mexican fans any longer, and they began to evacuate the American section. As the game finished in the stadium, we waited out in the hallway trying to figure out what, exactly, was going on.
Getting the Americans out of the stadium was an illogical procedure. In many countries, the policy is to hold the visiting fans back until the stadium is emptied and cleared, to avoid confrontations. This, however, was not the plan here. Amidst the confusion, the group from LA invited us to join them (THANK YOU!!!!!) so at least we had someone to follow as the police escorted several hundred of us down the ramp, outised the stadium, and then finally, outside the stadium grounds. The group moved in starts and stops as the police cleared and baracaded each section of our path. Behind the police line, there remained a mob of Mexican fans, screaming, gesturing, and still continuing to throw things. One particularly white frothy liquid --perhaps horchata? -- left my pants stained and coated with a crusty finish. A small rock struck John in the chest as we were exiting the stadium grounds.
The fascinating question as we left the stadium under such an escort was simply -- where are we going??? Clearly they canīt escort each person individually to their car/bus/van/metro... but they also canīt just turn us loose outside the stadium, can they? Well, as it turns out, they can and did. Once we hit the parking lot, we found ourselves amongst a --surprisingly calm --group of primarily Mexico fans. Following the group from LA, we quickly made our way through the parking lot to where their van and driver were waiting,and hopped inside.
Aaaaand.....that brings us to the ride home. As it turns out, the ride was an event in and of itself. The driver was having fun and initiating such antics as stopping periodically to buy us beer, honking to the tune of US cheers, and waving the US flag out the window. Throw in some typical Mexico City driving and it was a crazy (fun-crazy) ride.
As we approached the hotel where the LA group was staying, we learned that it was a) next door to the US embassy and b) on the street --and particular section of the street --where the post-game, street-closing celebration was beginning. In other words, it appeared that we had not yet left the insanity of the stadium behind
Thereīs a vauge possibility that this wouldnīt have been a problem --except. As we were leaving the hotel, we were stopped by the documentary team that had interviewed us the night before. They were seeking an "after" interview for our reaction to the game. This, in turn, attracted the attention of several Mexican fans, who where then... engaged... by on eof the guys in the LA group. We found ourselves herded back into the hotel as the Mexican fans mobbed in closer. For a short while, the Sheraton hotel went into lockdown to separate the two groups --even the British Airways flight crew were not allowed to leave. This, not surprisingly, caused us to reconsider our plan to walk straight through the mob, and the driver of the LA groupīs van agreed to give us a ride to our hotel.
From there, the story is calm. We returned to the hotel, changed our clothes, and cleaned up a bit, grabbed dinner, and caught the metro to catch our bus to Oaxaca. And so, weīre on to our next adventure. Or better yet --to relax and recover from this one.