If someone suggested that I would be writing about a game of football in this space, I’d laugh. I rarely watch the game (typically every four years during the World Cup and only very occasionally at other times).
Mexico is a fascinating country. Whether one considers the cultures thriving (or oppressed) in its territory prior to the arrival of the Spaniards (as occupiers), its war of independence two centuries ago, the revolution a hundred years later, or its hosting of the republican Spaniards (as refugees) defeated by Franco (and his allies) and their influence in modern Mexico or that of its Northern neighbour, the United States of America, or whether you think of its music, dance, cuisine, muralists, poets and writers or even its depressing stories in 1968 at Tlatelolco or last year in Ayotzinapa, the contrasts of beauty, struggles, force, wit, emotions, individual & collective will are dispersed in a varied territory of mountains, deserts, tropical rainforests, alpine views, coasts of sea…
I am married to Irma, who was born in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. My parents in law are from Saltillo, Coahuila (“Athens of Mexico”). Irma has her Ph.D. from the University of Nuevo Leon. Their football team is Tigres, which is also considered the team of the working classes in her home city. In Mexico, despite the commercialization of football, still the universities host some of the best teams in the premier league. The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the largest university of Latin America, has the Pumas. The two teams faced each other on the final game of the year – for the championship.
I knew that something had gone wrong for the strangest of reasons. The newly-elected rector of the UNAM, Dr Enrique Luis Graue Wiechers, tweeted a number of times during the week complaining about the poor performance of his university’s team. The final would be played in two parts; and the first match had ended with a 3-0 win in Monterrey for the local team. So there was little interest tonight, I felt. Yet, motivated from friends who had us over for carnitas, I decided to watch the game, until Monterrey scores, I thought. It was little after the first half hour and the score was 0-0. I fully supported the Pumas, first because of my admiration for the UNAM, second because I live in Mexico City and third because, so far, I feel more tenderness for Saltillo over Monterrey.
Needless to point out, that Irma and her family supported the Tigres. We had both returned home and put the girls to sleep. On the last minute of the first half the Pumas opened the score. The second half they dominated the game. They scored a second goal with about half an hour remaining. Their final goal, which turned the stadium on fire, was almost on the last minute of the normal period. However, there was also a red card for the Pumas. The two teams would go to overtime. But here, the roles changed. Suddenly, Tigres seemed to be playing on its own. Soon they scored, and threatened to score again and again. All seemed settled, but another red card, this time for Tigres, and literally on the last minute the Pumas tied sending the game to the penalties!
Irma finally came and joined me in the sofa. She gets very nervous when a game of football reaches the penalties. I am unsure if she knew I supported the Pumas, together with the entire “Ciudad Universitaria” (the Olympic stadium). On the penalties, the Tigres won. I came upstairs to finish this text, noting my feelings for a local match as evidence that I can start to consider myself local. I now go downstairs (the TV is still on) to receive some of Irma’s happiness in a kiss 🙂