The Legend of the Mexican Soccer Fan

I had the great fortune to spend a week in Mexico; Cabo San Lucas down in Baja Sur. No, this was not a soccer trip, I leave those to Steve Davis. This was about sun, and family. So posting slowed down a bit here. You may have noticed, or not. But I did do some soccer reading (Soccernomics), and had conversations with locals about the game they love - which is hard because I don't speak Spanish.

Mostly I did a totally non-scientific survey, because I was curious about how pure the fanbase of a teamless state would be. By teamless, I mean no pro side. And no real amateur side either, not of significance. Sure, there are some local branches of Universities - where I was had one from Tijuana. In all though, this state of less than 1 Million people is 32nd of 32 by population. So why would I think there would be a decent team? Why would I think that the people here would love soccer?

Well, because its Mexico. And like so many things in soccer there is this tradition that everyone in Mexico loves soccer. The reality isn't quite so pure.

Baja California Sur, is young, literate and generally a little more wealthy than the typical Mexican state. But it is a state without history, adding 20% to its population from 2000 to 2005. Many of the people that live there do so to grab a little bit of opportunity by separating American tourists from their money - whether working in shops, bars, hotels or resorts.

But young people love soccer, right? Young Mexicans love it more, right?

Meh, maybe not so much. There are two fields in Cabo San Lucas, with stands that could less than the four teams competing. Few bars actually showed soccer on their TVs, and those that did showed more EPL than anything. Only 1 place knew about the Crew v Toluca match in the CCL.

The pattern of fandom down there was quite similar to a general overview of the sport in Mexico. When I asked, "What is your favorite football, or soccer, team?" and after getting around the answers for all of the NFL teams (Cowboys, Raiders, Colts, Patriots and Packers) it really just came down to the four most popular teams in Mexico.

There was an edge to Chivas de Guadelajara as they got 7 of the 15 mentions (with only 1 title in the last 5 years). Next was America (3 cups) and Pumas (1 cup) with 3 each, and lastly Cruz Azul (no cups) with 2. Yes, BCS pulls a lot of its working force from Guadelajara itself, but overall the answers and discussion were about teams with "history" and not with recent success. Pumas fans were notable because they just tended to like the club because of what it IS - an amateurside in the top division - but for the most part the fans I talked to liked soccer, but their attachments weren't strong. Not even at the national level as several people told me that their favorite teams were non-Mexican National Teams (Italy, Brazil, Germany).

Mainly this little mini-experiment got me thinking that maybe MLS fans are so busy building up other nations' soccer culture they have not done enough focusing on their own. We don't need to compare ourselves to the myths and legends of the "best" fans in the world, nor in our region. We need to recognize what we are, who we are,  run with that. Compare MLS to where it was, and where it is now.

So there's a tiny snapshot of my vacation. I will get to updating the statistics for Sounders preseason shortly, and I also have a fairly significant article sketched out from my reading of Soccernomics and how it relates to the MLS Labor Dispute.

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