I'm packed like a sardine onto the light rail, but I'm surrounded by 121 of my closest friends. After a 15-minute rail ride, we finally disembark at Estadio Azteca. Coming up the stairs out of the station, I finally get a glimpse of the Colossus of St Ursula, home of Club América. Against a backdrop of mountains, the landscape isn't the only thing taking my breath away. At 7,000 feet above sea level, this blue and white bespeckled stadium beckons us to continue past rows of vendors selling Club América gear. Interspersed between the vendor tents are police in full riot gear, clear plastic shields held at the ready. We made it past the first security check and walked halfway around the stadium to our South gate.
The police are ever present in Estadio Azteca, we passed by many on the stairs and ramps that take us to our section. Nestled under a cloudy sky, the only thing more impressive than the view is the amount of riot police surrounding us. The red, blue, and yellow colors of Club América in the empty stadium make up various emblems of the team. We sit in an empty stadium, our only friends the 30 riot cops that stand in the seats beneath our section, and their 10 friends standing on each side of us, completely encapsulating our supporter's section. We arrived around an hour before kickoff, and the stadium vendors start hawking their wares, feeding one of the largest American supporter groups ever to travel to Mexico to support their team.
My capo warms us up with a cheer as Frei takes the pitch. He looks so small from our seats, I cannot make out his number, only his jersey's color. As I sing, my vision becomes spotted; the altitude makes its presence known. The air is laced with the smell of cigarettes, coming from the police. The stadium starts to fill up, and we have a few passing fans attempt to mock us. We don't let their cheers bother us. My capo stands up and says our plans to take the train after now will not work, and ECS will work something out, to be told at halftime. I don't have time to be nervous, because the boys are taking the pitch, and I am lost into the daze of Boom Boom Clap.
The game starts, and I pass along our forbidden tifo - "infierno verde y seimpre presente." The riot police do not like this, and during the song "bluest skies you've ever seen"' they come and remove our signs. They like it even less when we toss around a beach ball and green and blue balloons. In a stadium that can seat around 100,000; the voice of ECS dominates the air. We don't hear our rivals, with their own police escort on the other side of the stadium. I follow my capo until Our Goal, and the stadium is filled with ringing cheers from section. Unfortunately, Club América quickly ruins our mood and reminds us why they are the defending CCL champions.
At the half, our capo stands up and tells us that everyone in this section, ECS or not, will be taken via buses to our after party. There is no choice, and we will be escorted out by our friendly riot police. Starting the half at 2-1, our chants of "Si, se puede" ring out, even as we feel disheartened by our team's performance. I slowly make my way down the stairs and feel the altitude as I attempt to navigate my way to the washroom beneath our stands. Even more police in riot gear are waiting for us, as they prepare for us to exit the stadium. I get back to my stands in time to see Frei allow the third goal. The stadium erupts in whistles and incoherent noise when the final whistle is blown.
We do not have time to wait, we are told to "Go Now!" We start to walk down the stairs and are held at the space behind our stands, near the washrooms. Once the police have confirmed that our section is empty, we are led down the ramps to the parking lot with rows of riot cops ahead of and behind us. We pass by gates where club América supporters are being held as they taunt us. We start singing "Take Them All" so as to ignore their verbal assault. After passing even more police, we are taken to our buses.
We are loaded onto the police buses, which are more like Paddy-wagons. I can feel where handcuffs could be mounted to our seats. While it feels like something has gone awfully wrong, we are safe and well looked after for the 30-minute ride back into the heart of Mexico City. Thanks to the police vans using sirens, we make it to the bar in record time. While it felt very unusual to be taken away from a stadium via police, it was the best ride I've ever had in a Mexican police vehicle. Once all of the ECS crew reaches the bar, we grab margaritas and decompress the experience with the laughter and joy of spending time with our closest friends.