By Michelle Ackermann – Cancun, known as the ‘Mexican Miami’, is known for the resorts and exquisite beaches but take a deeper walk through the streets of the city and you will quickly find the heartbeat of the beautiful game.
The passion is focused on the Mexico national team, El Tri Colores, and the nation’s club sides but it is not exclusive to these domestic teams. This is especially true this summer with the 2015 Copa America down to the semi-finals in Chile.
Mexico played in this year’s Copa America but head coach Miguel Herrera opted to take a weakened roster and they were dumped out after the group stage. The result was disappointing but easy to overlook with the team’s ultimate goal this summer being to win the 2015 Gold Cup.
Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, and Peru are still standing and aiming for regional glory. The Albiceleste were one of the pre-tournament favorites and while they have not played their best at the tournament still hold that distinction.
There is no love lost between Mexican and Argentinean soccer fans. I quickly found this out while wearing an Argentina jersey to watch one of the Copa America group stage matches but for the Argentina vs Colombia quarterfinal match I decided to seek a more understanding crowd.
With plenty of Argentinians living in Mexico, it was not hard to find a local Argentinian bar where all of the Argentina fans were sure to watch the match. The passion of the fans did not disappoint and even thought the match ended with penalty shootouts, the chants could be heard blocks away.
The youngest fan, a 5-year old named Rio, was born in Mexico to Argentinean parents. His patriotism to Argentina is clearly seen by his jersey. And even though he proudly sports the #4 on this jersey, he was quick to say, when asked, that his favorite player was the famed #10, Lionel Messi. His response was quite simple, “He is a really, really good player. Fast, smart, brilliant”. Even though the sound levels of the chants proved too much for this youngster, he watched the game until the very end, with his hands covering his ears.
Other fans were not born into the life of an Albiceleste fan, but found themselves unable to shake the deep passion it stirred within. One of these fans is a young man named Pepe, another Argentinian living and working in Mexico. For Pepe, the road to becoming a football fanatic took place over the course of two events. His childhood friend’s father was working at a 2nd division team in Argentina, Tigre, and decided to take the boys to a match. A small game at best, but one that allowed the young fans to be even closer to the players, this was the initial spark for Pepe. At 17, he found himself at a River Plate match- the ambience and mix of people chanting, playing drums, flags proudly on display all around was the moment that he felt goose bumps and would forever be in love with the beautiful game.
As for his favorite player, he could not settle on one, but instead mentioned three, that all bring different aspects to the pitch. The obvious, Messi, simply described as the best player in the world and one that is magical to watch, despite his lack of titles with his national team. The other, Tevez – “There is just something in his blood, that never lets him be defeated”. And now, with Tevez making a return to Boca Juniors, perhaps in the peak of his career, it has simply added even more in the way of respect from the fans. Last on the list was Riquelme, described as the best midfielder and one that is able to get the ball in front of the goal with just one magical pass.
For others, it has been and always will be Maradona. Not much clarity needed on that one.
One thing that was striking about the Argentina fans was the fact that a majority tend to wear their club jersey and sling the national jersey over their shoulder. Intrigued by this, I wanted to know more. Turns out, fans want to show their allegiance to their clubs at all times and despite being an international tournament having the national jersey or flag on display across your shoulder would prove to be enough.
The national pride extends beyond the soccer field. One fan showed up to cheer on the soccer team wearing the official jersey of Argentina’s national rugby team, the Pumas.
As Copa America inches closer to the semi-finals, Argentina fans are sure of a victory on July 4th. Only time will tell…
Official gear of the Argentinean national team is available at World Soccer Shop.