The Mexico-Venezuela friendly in San Diego was the first of a five-city tour for the Mexican national team in the United States in 2007 and despite the location, it was a Mexican “home” game and a fiesta for Mexicans, Chicanos, Latinos, and even Gringos. Celebrating the “local” boy Fernando Arce’s goal, Andrés Guardado’s exciting play on the wing, supporters returned home basking in the glow of an otherwise inconsequential win by reserves and unknown youths. Some returned to Tijuana (TJ) in cars with Baja California license plates, but the great majority remained north of the border.
Beer and souvenir vendors spoke Spanish without hesitation to clients wearing Mexican green or ponchos proclaiming allegiance to Chivas de Guadalajara, Cruz Azul, and Club América. Tonight, Spanish was the language used to introduce the teams, Spanish was used to conduct the half-time entertainment (boys’ teams from San Diego and Tijuana took penalty kicks for a prize, their nationalities indistinguishable by facial features and skin colors), and Spanish was the main language, but not the only language, of the conversations around me.
But it wasn’t the Spanish that the local sport columnist commented on; it was the noise. The noise, wrapped tightly in a burrito filled to bursting with clichés explaining why soccer is so foreign, pointing out, that noise merely punctuates great play or scoring in American games before otherwise quiet, American crowds. Ironically, the stadium was quietest when the Mexican national anthem was sung- looking around, I saw no one singing.
To simply call it “noise” relegates it to the background and “it” was the most significant player in the car park and stadium- loud and relentless. The sound was at times harmonious, like the mariachi music that would periodically rise above other sources, the orchestrated, rhythmic pounding of plastic-tube noisemakers, and “Mexican” waves. Mostly, the stadium sounded like a giant party, a quinceañera with 64,000 (second highest attendance for Mexico in the US after a game played at the Rose Bowl last year) guests: random noisemakers, shouting, horns, singing, and the conversations of friends and extended families including many soccer moms and abuelitas.
The international attention paid to LA Galaxy and the astronomical figure attached to David Beckham has poetically overshadowed local rival Chivas USA, the self-proclaimed “immigrant team.” Galaxy has few “Latino” players and with Landon Donovan and Beckham, embraces the “surfer” image and Hollywood glamour- both predominantly white. The Chivas USA roster is more diverse and the team markets itself as a true Angeleno team, reflecting the population of Southern California. The combined metropolitan regions of Tijuana and San Diego have barely a third of Los Angeles’ population but with the semi-permeable border, San Diego is easily accessible to a large Mexican city with no top-level team of its own. Owners Jorge Vergara and Antonio Cue should have put Chivas USA in San Diego, as a “Californian team.” It might not seem the most lucrative market but it would have been a lot of fun, if this crowd (Mexican, American, Mexican-American, whatever) were any indication.