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The sporting life

9 June 2012

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death… I assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Bill Shankley

There are three topics of conversation in Mexico:  futbol, futbol, and everything else.

Carlos Monsiváis

Serious sport is war minus the shooting

George Orwell

Perhaps the biggest problem with political reporting is that the media sends out political reporters to cover political events, when they should send out sports writers, like Proceso’s Beatriz Pereyra, who manages very nicely to turn Orwell on his head, showing that unserious sport (The outcome was never in doubt).  And, to follow up on Orwell, unserious sport (like Mexico v Guyana) can be politics by other means, thankfully minus the shooting.

My translation:

Screams of “Fuck You, Peña!” spread through the stands of Estadio Azteca throughout the first half of the World Cup Brazil 2014 qualifying match between Mexico and Guyana.

The anti-Peña Nieto demonstrations were impossible to miss.  Televisa commentator Javier Alarcon said on air: “We are hearing a loud shout against the presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto accompanied by an obscenity that we are not going to repeat.”

Traffic had slowed to a crawl on Calzada de Tlalpan [the main route to Estadio Azteca] Friday evening before the start of the first World Cup Brazil 2014 qualifier.  The outcome of a game featuring Mexico against weak opponent Guyana was not in doubt: the biggest attraction was finding out if how many people would respond to calls on social networks for a demonstration against PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The opening ceremonies, the playing of the national anthems, went smoothly.  At the first block, by Guayanese goal-keeper, Ronson Williams, a shout of “Fuck you!”, but without adding “Peña” was messaged by the twitterers.  Within five minutes, in the stands behind the visitors goal, a young couple held up a red sign with black lettering, in support of Peña Nieto, as a group of adults in the same seating area were encouraged to raise bright orange placards, also in support of the PRI candidate.

The private security guards for Azteca Stadium soon reached the area, and asked the fans to remove their signs.  Reluctantly and under protest, all folded their cards which then served to fan them or put under their seats to avoid soiling their clothes.

Minute 16:  The score was 2-0 thanks to goals by Salcido and Giovani: goals that nobody much cheered… “no one is cheering Peña”.  The fans lolled in their seats, though happy enough to applaud the players, while on the north side of the stadium, in the empty seats just under the giant screen, a giant green shirt was unwrapped, bearing the number 132, and the logo “Mexico”.

The few kids who had been in hitherto empty stands were joined by others who left their seats and # YoSoy132 debuted in Mexican soccer.

To the right of the jumbotron, a few moments after the giant shirt appeared, a giant banner reading “Mexico does not want Peña Nieto” made its appearance as more and more youngsters, ant-like, poured into the unoccupied seats around the banners.

Halftime ended shirtless … and the banner came down.  The stadium security guards, in their florescent orange shirts, pressured the fans into taking them down.  The rest of the crowd could not raise them again.

At halftime the fans woke up from their siesta and began to make some noise. On the left side corner of the south end, a group of boys, men and women, one with a UNAM Pumas shirt  who had been quietly watching the game, without any fanfare, raised a white placard with red lettering, reading “# YoSoy132” and the crowd responded.

A man in civilian clothes, carrying a range of communications equipment, and staffers who identified themselves as Federal District police, came up and politely asked the group to take down their sign.  “There are Peña Nieto supporters up there, and they could attack you.”  The kids took their sign down for a moment, only to raise it up again, higher than ever, as they climbed on their seat.

This caught the attention of the curious who came to see what was going to happen. Those who just realized that there were other “Yo Soy 132” people in the crowd started calling out to each other, and clustered around the kids as if they were rock stars.

“Fuck you, Peña!, Fuck you, Peña!, OUT!”, one belted out. As in cascade, the tribune was joined by a chorus. One, then those in the seats behind, then those further away.  The sign was passed from hand to hand, as the holders posed for their photos on smartphones, each posing with fingers up in the “V for Victory” sign, smiling ear to ear and rejoicing in the shout out of “Fuck you, Peña!”

But the spell was broken by the cops. Six officers poured out of a tunnel, swiftly and hostilely glommed on the boys, to pull the sign away.  The kids played defense, passing the sign back and forth, until one officer managed to grab it.   Filled with hate and anger, the officers retired with their booty.  For his trouble, he earned a chorus of “repressive asshole!”  From the kids, laughter and much celebratory mischief.

Throughout the second half of the game, new fans never stopped coming. Whole families with children and even grandparents, appeared in an unusual way. The preferred seating area, where tickets cost more that 1200 pesos each, filled up.  So did the 600 and 200 peso seats.  The stadium was nearly full by the end of the game, and people were still pouring inn when the referee blew the final whistle.

In the cheap seats, bored with the game that the Aztecs ruled 3-1, a girl pulled out of her back pocket a white sheet with black lettering, and the now famous silhouette of Peña Neito and his “copete” surrounded by a red circle with a slash through it, asking the question “Do you really know the truth about Enrique Peña Nieto?”  And the answer came back in the thousands … little signs above and below and around her, all bearing the message “# YoSoy132”.

A reporter from Televisa was dispatched to the scene.  His questions didn’t take more than two minutes.  His questions were straight-foreward:  “who told you to do this, and where?” but the shouts of “Televisa out!, Televisa out!” distracted the fans from the game, and the reporter’s concentration, who preferred to terminate the interview.  And then, just when the shout went up “No cheers for Peña! No cheers for Peña” there were cheers, when Mexico nearly scored a fourth goal.

In the by now nearly full stadium, fans cheered the slick hands of Mexican goalkeeper Jesus Corona who swatted away the ball in an easy motion, setting off waves of excitement as people enjoyed the game for the first time.

By the end, the peñanietistas in the lower seats, who had kept their cards, got them out again. Defiantly, they raised before the eyes of police and private security personnel who gave up in its efforts to remove them. Spontaneously, fans of the south grandstand yelled “Peña Nieto out!, Peña Nieto out!” and glared at them,  throwing trash, soda and beer bottles.  Whistles, insults and echoes of “Assholes!, Assholes! “did not cease until, under police protection, they were escorted out of the stadium before the end of the game.

Where, dozens of buses from the State of Mexico were lined up to  return them  home.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. norm permalink
    9 June 2012 4:55 am

    One of my old saws is the statement:I love politics, it’s sport for old people.

  2. Allen Graham permalink
    10 June 2012 7:57 am

    It appears to me that there is a growing polarization within the electorate. Young well educated women who are well off, seem to favour EPN, surprise. Could it be his looks?
    Serious professional and business people, mostly male, have opted for AMLO.
    The poor , economically, women seen to strongly favour Josephina (Josefina) or Mota.
    None of this makes sense, in that in the past ¨the Party¨ was favored.
    This has become a three way sporting event.

  3. 22 May 2013 11:13 pm

    That’s a informative article.

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