Long sandy white beaches, Chichen Itza, food, tequila and a festival that celebrates the dead – you could claim Mexico is famed for any of the above. It’s a beautiful country that attracts swarms of holidaymakers each year and we’re going to explain why you should drag yourself away from the sun kissed sand and crystal blue waters to experience a true love of Mexican culture – soccer.
So, why is soccer the biggest sport in Mexico? Given the close proximity to the United States, you’d be forgiven for assuming the number one sport is American Football or Baseball. Likewise, with the manner the nation is depicted on screen, you might think of the bull ring or wrestling, but Mexico loves their ‘futbol’.
Mexico isn’t immediately associated with soccer, and their league isn’t exactly the top one that appears in the online sportsbooks, but the nation has an incredibly strong history with the sport. The game is believed to have been introduced to the shores during the 1800s as a result of an influx of Cornish miners – workers who hailed from Cornwall in England – who brought the sport with them and founded Mexico’s first-ever club, Pachuca.
Mexico is famed for scoring the first-ever goal in the World Cup – an opener in their 4-1 defeat at the hands of France in the Uruguayan tournament of 1930. Still, it wasn’t until 13 years later that the game became a recognised professional sport in the homeland. It’s also believed the first women’s matches took place as far back as 1950 although it wasn’t until more recently (2017/18) that women competed in a professional league.
Despite a proud history with the World Cup, Mexico has never lifted a major trophy having been knocked out of their hunt for the Jules Rimet Trophy in the quarter-finals on two occasions (1970 and 1986). Besides, falling at the final hurdle as runners up in the Copa America on two occasions as well, losing out by one goal to Argentina in 1993 and by the same margin to Colombia in 2001. The Mexican faithful have been able to celebrate some success on the world stage though as they saw their team win Gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.
On their own turf, the Mexican population adore soccer and the atmosphere generated at their matches will make the hairs on your neck stand up. The country sees several fierce rivalries throughout the season, all of which take over the area on game day.
The oldest derby sees Chivas and Atlas face off in a match dubbed El Clasico Tapatio; historically, Chivas have won the hearts of their working-class fan base whilst Atlas have a predominantly middle-class following, which makes for some interesting scenes.
If you cannot make it to a derby game, of which there are many, don’t fear as any match will be a phenomenal experience. They are festivals of colour and the noise takes over the stadium and surrounding streets in a manner rarely seen elsewhere.
If taking in any game fails to fit your schedule though then perhaps a visit to Mexico City, which has hosted more World Cup matches than anywhere else, will help give you an understanding of the culture and you’ll be guaranteed to want a photo in front of the national stadium –Estadio Azteca.
Club sides Cruz Azul and Club America play their home matches at the ground but it’s perhaps more famous for the ‘hand of God' moment from Diego Maradona against England. As well as having held two World Cup finals, the stadium is also one of the biggest in the world with an 87,000 capacity.
Not too many tourists can claim to have stood in its shadow – why not be one who has?