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World Cup 2018: Celebrating football the Mexican way 

Aniket Mishra
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Exclusive
168   //    02 Jul 2018, 19:11 IST

Moscow flea market during 2018 FIFA World Cup
A fan ventures through the Moscow flea market

“I quit my job because my boss didn’t approve my leave application (to attend the World Cup),” exclaims Alejandro as I ask him about his month-long pilgrimage here, in the city Moscow in Russia. He hails from Mexico, and like many of his compatriots, exudes excitement for his team’s knockout clash against Brazil later tonight (July 02).

“I feel we did really well to beat Germany – they were the World Champions after all. That gave us hope; made us believe that our team can cause other upsets this year and go far in the tournament.” 

As we extended our conversation, though, I realized that for these fans, it’s not just about the on-field performances from Mexican superstars like Carlos Vela and Chicharito. Instead, the ultimate sporting extravaganza that the FIFA World Cup offers means a whole lot more to these football aficionados.

They rejoice and celebrate like no one else. They support and flaunt like no one else.

It’s almost as if the entire community has come together to represent the traits that exemplify Mexican culture of celebration, passion and inclusiveness. How else would you justify them dancing and partying with the South Korean ambassador to thank him for his country’s win in the final Group game, which ensured qualification for the Aztecs?

Another Mexican fan, Cynthia, reminisced on the entire experience, saying, “they (South Korea) helped us forget the loss to Sweden; we ought to have made the ambassador drink Tequila with us!"

Team Mexico in training ahead of 2018 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match against Brazil
Team Mexico in training ahead of the Round of 16 clash against Brazil

The country has had a rich history when it comes to this prestigious competition – they have hosted it twice – 1970 and 1986. Those who attended either one of the two events fondly remember the carnival they ensued. Cynthia, an engineer based out of Guadalajara, admits she was too young to remember anything from ’86, but proudly talks about her parents attending the final of the tournament.

“My father says the experience was better than the day he got married,” she added with a giggle.

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The Central American nation, which has now contested in every World Cup since 1990, also boasts of the highest attendance record for a youth FIFA game. More than 100,000 flocked in to see the hosts beat Uruguay at the Azteca in 2011. My newly-made Mexican friends justified the indulgence, saying, “it doesn’t matter that it was a junior game – our national team was playing and we couldn’t be happier!”

It is apt to end this ode with Alejandro's response when I had asked him about him losing his salary for the month - “I can find another job, but the World Cup won’t come again for another four years.”

Can’t disagree with that line of thought, can we?

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Aniket Mishra
EXPERT COLUMNIST
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