Mexico national team still means something for millions despite apparent apathy

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Yuri Cortez
While ticket sales for this cycle's World Cup qualifiers have been slow, crowds outside El Tri's training sessions show there are still fans who care

Great tickets are still available for Mexico's World Cup qualifier against Panama, at least if the national team's social media is any indication.

Nearly every message from the account is reminding fans that tickets are available two for one, a deal that has been offered for several days now but remains in effect as directors attempt to make sure Estadio Azteca is full for Friday's match.

It's not the first signs of apathy we've seen from Mexico fans who used to pack the Azteca to the gills. Games against Costa Rica, Honduras and even the United States have failed to see the boisterous, sell-out crowds that had been commonplace in Santa Ursula. Is it poor scheduling of games? Continued difficulties in non-sporting sectors of the country? Or simply fatigue from the number of games being played there? Whatever the case, fans in the capital don't seem to be caring about El Tri like they used to.

Nextor Araujo Mexico

Of course, apathy may be better than the outright anger for Juan Carlos Osorio when he returned from the Gold Cup. The manager was welcomed back home with jeers from fans who apparently had made the trip to the airport specifically to hurl insults at him, including telling the Colombian to go back to his country.

It's easy to forget about how much the national team means to people, though maybe you could argue the fact that someone would take the metro to the airport to camp out and wait for a coach to come through is a certain kind of passion. It's easy to get hyper-focused on how Osorio is lining up the team or whether or not you like him or his ideas. Sometimes that's a lot of fun, but sometimes that obscures the joy of seeing your countrymen go up against another country in a sporting contest that will boost or lower national pride.

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There are still, however, millions of Mexicans who still feel that pride in the national team - and it doesn't take long to find them. Mexico's training sessions in Cuernavaca's Estadio Centenario have been full of fans hoping to catch a glimpse of a star or get an autograph from their favorite players.

Mexico is a country in a difficult time, and while the ramifications of that extend to players, owners and fans (the Department of Treasury's recent delegation of Rafa Marquez as an alleged front man for a cartel kingpin is the most recent reminder, but there are others), the national team still can bring joy. It likely will boost spirits at least somewhat by qualifying for the World Cup in this pair of games.

The reception in Cuernavaca, just two hours away from the capital by bus, has again been phenomenal as Mexico heads to the "City of Eternal Spring" for the second time in the Osorio era to try and combat the effects of Mexico City's altitude. It only serves to strengthen the idea that Mexico should begin playing World Cup qualifiers outside the capital in the next cycle, not because of a FIFA ban for a chant that the federation is attempting to eradicate, but because Mexicans all around the country should be able to see their team. Estadio Chivas and Monterrey's Estadio BBVA Bancomer, which went viral for its beauty last week, are potential World Cup sites should North America be awarded the tournament in 2026. Surely if they're good enough to host World Cup matches, they're good enough to host qualifiers.

The national team has its critics, and enthusiasm has wavered in some places, but this is a team that still matters to millions of people, people who would be thrilled to buy tickets at a two-for-one rate were they able to do so. Whether it means sacrificing a few lucrative U.S. friendly games, moving qualification games or something more creative, the Mexican federation must remember those millions.

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