Until today, I’d always believed that the quietest times in this village are on Christmas and New Year’s morning – when all the world is sound asleep after a night of bonfires, music and neighborhood and family parties in the street.
It wouldn’t take a genius to realize that Futbol (soccer) is king in this country this afternoon while Mexico was soundly trouncing France 2-0 in a South Africa stadium. Apparently, for the duration of the game, every adult male in the area was glued to the nearest TV.
Silly me, when I saw two CFE (electric company) trucks with giant ladders pull up across the street, I thought they were going to work on the tree that creates continuing problems with the wires above. Wrong…That house has been sold, closing is tomorrow. It looked to me like the owner brought in a TV and invited some of his buddies over to watch the game in the empty house – at least the linemen and their trucks disappeared when the game was over -- with nary a cut twig ir dropped leaf.
Although my American satellite system didn’t carry today’s game (my US networks seem more focused on the basketball tournament) I didn’t have to wonder when Mexico scored goals. A simultaneous joyful cheer arose from who knows how many neighborhood homes – twice, and at the conclusion of the came several residents pulled out leftover celebratory skyrockets and announced the win of the home team.
They were happily watching the match on Telecable – and that’s where all the TVs at Walmart were set this morning. Even if the games weren’t the only thing of interest this month, the vividly colored uniforms against the green, green field makes for a pretty comparison picture.
Anyone who has spent any time at all in this country knows how important soccer players, teams and games are…all players, teams and games, from the scrawny gangly kids headed down the street for their Saturday game to the country’s roster of big-time teams. Each major city and region has at least one favorite team – in these parts devotion is fairly equally divided between the Americas, the Chivas and of course, this team in green representing the Republic of Mexico in South Africa.
The admiration of Mexico’s popular players is unending. Mexican’s not only rank soccer stars up there with the most popular music and movie stars, in many circles they are far more important. After all, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of singers who can do a good job on the favorite old songs – but how many soccer players are there who can compete with the likes of Javier Hernandez, Gerado Torrado, Rafa Marquez and the stocky and popular Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
According to Chris Matyszczyk’s piece today on the CBS News Sports Blog, “Hernandez took his goal with joy and grace, skipping around (French goalkeeper) Lloris in the French goal, as if he was a chair that someone had casually tossed on the floor.
”Some will be additionally moved to excitement by the knowledge that Hernandez' grandfather, Tomas Balcazar, also scored against France in the 1954 World Cup.
“The Mexicans dart like neurotic ticks. One second, they're there. The next, they're elsewhere, often with the ball and dangerous intentions.”
How the World Cup Works
The countries playing in the World Cup have been grouped into quartets, with each of the four teams slated to play each of the others. The scoring for advancement to meet the winners of other quartets is based on a sum of the number of games won, the number of games tied and the number of goals scored. Mexico is joined in this first quartet by South Africa (who tied 1-1 with Mexico in the first game), France and Uruguay.
For the coming week(at least) Mexico’s avid soccer fans – pretty much everyone in the country – can dream of being an underdog heading for the top. Mexico meets evenly matched Uruguay (each team has a current tally of four points).
“France isn't out,” wrote Matyszczyk, “but it is down in so many ways. There is clearly enormous discord between the players and their coach. And while they may beat South Africa (in their next match), what sort of game might Mexico and Uruguay play?
”…Mexico and Uruguay will experience temptations. Calculations, too.
“The goal of the final group standings is to avoid Argentina, which will surely top its group. You need to win the group. At least then, it might be South Korea. Oh, the torment of it all.
“Mexico has, however, put itself in a wonderful situation with exactly the kind of play that the World Cup needs to see.
“The Mexicans are slowly, no, quickly, making themselves the favorites of the neutrals.”
It’s hard to live here in the center of this great republic and not feel that surge of national pride that was reflected in those great roars all over Ajijic, all over Chapala, all over Jalisco and all over Mexico this afternoon.
As the Mexican Futbol sportcasters say…
Mexico’s next match, against Uruguay will be played on Tuesday morning. France and South Africa will meet in another stadium at the same time – determining the winner of Group A.
Later that day the games between Nigeria and Korea Republic, and Greece and Argentina will determine the Group B winner, and the teams moving forward to play in the next round. You’ll know when the game starts – you’ll suddenly realize you’re not hearing anything. Instead of the gas and water trucks, the clip-clopping of horses hooves and the steady hum of cars, you can hear a pin dropping against the cobblestones.
To keep abreast of upcoming games, you may want to bookmark this handy online tool. By moving from day to day around the circle, you’ll see the upcoming pairings – remember, these times are listed at South Africa time. It appears that games start at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The Wearing of the Green
If you are going to be out and about on game day, you may want to don a green shirt – like scores of local residents. Matyszczyk makes note of the sea of green in South Africa – especially now that the Irish fans are bonding with their Mexican cousins – especially to cheer against France.
“Plenty of Mexican fans wearing delightful wrestling masks were cheering and cringing in fear. Plenty more Irish fans, who had booked their tickets in the belief that France's Thierry Henry couldn't possibly handle France past Ireland in the qualifying competition, also offered their support. (Well, the Mexicans also wear green and like beer.)”
It’s not the first time Ireland and Mexico joined forces against a common foe. We’re thinking it bodes well for Mexico’s world cup outcome.