Flip Flop Flying

Cruz Azul

with one comment

When I moved to Mexico City, I picked a team. There are three football teams in the city: Club América, Pumas, and Cruz Azul, all of whom play in the top division, the Liga MX. I looked at a map. Even though I’d seen América and Pumas play at their stadiums (Estadio Azteca and Estadio Olímpico, respectively) when I visited on holiday in 2008, I plumped for Cruz Azul, who were the closest team to where I was living at the time (and has been at all subsequent apartments). Pretty much everyone I know supports América or Pumas, but, that was fine. I liked the idea of supporting my most local team. It would also be disingenuous to pretend that I didn’t enjoy the idea of supporting the smallest team in the city, too. The fact that nobody I know supports Cruz Azul, though, made me a lot less inclined to go to the stadium. Until 2014. My girlfriend and I were looking for an apartment, and eventually found one just a block away from Estadio Azul, Cruz Azul’s stadium. My girlfriend is a Pumas fan. This new apartment was way better for my footballing interests than hers.

We are coming to the end of the regular season in Mexico. Well, it’s more complicated than that. I’ll explain. The 2014-15 season, as with previous seasons since the mid-nineties, is split in two. Before Christmas, there’s the Torneo apertura (opening tournament). This consists of each team playing every other team once, at home or away. After New Year, there’s the Torneo clausura (closing tournament). Same format here, just with teams playing the corresponding home or away fixture. After each of these tournaments, there’s a liguilla (little league). The liguilla is an eight team playoff. Essentially, quarter finals onwards. It’s a rubbish, overly complicated format for a season intended to make things more interesting. For me, Mr Logical Brain, it diminishes the achievement of being a champion if you can finish 8th over half a season, win a few playoff games and be the kings.

Anyway, last Saturday was the last home game for Cruz Azul in the Torneo apertura. After three seasons of not bothering to go to games, living around the corner has changed things drastically. Including cup games, I went to nine of eleven Cruz Azul home games. (I missed one when I was in Belize, and I missed one earlier in the season when I had food poisoning and really could not be too far from my own bathroom.) It’s been fun going to games. And it’s been fun to just go and buy a ticket from the stadium ticket office on the day of the game. Really, it’s the first time that I’ve regularly gone to see “my” football team since Lincoln City’s 1987-88 season.

It’s a relatively small stadium. 35,000 capacity, compared to Estadio Azteca (105,000) and Estadio Olímpico (69,000). Estadio Azul is interesting. Maybe not as pretty as Olímpico, or as impressive as Azteca, but I like that the pitch is below ground level. When you enter the stadium, you are at the front of top level of seating. From a living point of view, it means that the view from my window isn’t blocked by a big stadium, as Estadio Azul is about the same height as my third floor (fourth floor in American English) apartment.

It’s pretty cheap, too. Ignoring the cheapest section behind the goal where the hardcore fans go, you can get a ticket for 65 pesos (£3.02, €3.84, US$4.79). Unless–unless–it’s a local derby against América or Pumas. Then, the club puts the prices up. Well, that happens in England too, some games are more attractive, thus more expensive, than others. Here, though, with the Ticketmaster fee, that 65 peso ticket jumps to 423 pesos. About 650% of the normal price. Last Saturday was a local derby. Cruz Azul v. Pumas. What should be a game where the stadium is rammed full is a game where the stadium is half empty because of the price hike. It was a game with implications, too. The winner would more or less*eliminate any chance of the other team progressing to the liguilla.

I like being at Estadio Azul. I like that on match day, my street starts to fill up with stalls selling merchandise. I like that the street gets busier and busier as kickoff gets closer. I like hearing the hardcore fans, the porras, chanting and banging drums as they walk to the stadium. And I, of course, like being able to leave the apartment fifteen minutes before the game starts. There’s a far greater mix of men and women at Cruz Azul games than I’ve ever seen at games in Europe, and a mix of fans, too. Being the capital city, there are always fans of the opposing teams scattered around, even more so for local derbies. In my section up in the “cheap” seats, I’d say that about 30% of the fans were Pumas fans. Some of them alone, some of them mixed-team couples. Girlfriend and I would’ve been one of those mixed-team couples had she not had other plans.

As you enter the stadium, you are frisked. No belts allowed. That’s another benefit of living close: not having to traverse the city constantly tugging up my jeans. The Pumas section at one end of the ground was pretty much full early on. The Cruz Azul end of the ground not so much. Apparently, there had been some clashes with police outside the ground, which I assume accounts for that. The crappy PA played music. “Everybody Get Up” by 5ive. The cheerleaders (like yer proper NFL style cheerleaders) walked around the perimeter of the field to mucho whistling.

The breeze blew the smell of Domino’s pizza around. The vendors touted their wares. Like at baseball games, they bring beer and soft drinks and snacks to you. As game time approached, the big inflatables around the edge of the field were deflated. I kind of enjoy seeing those before the game. Four inflatable bottles (Tecate, Gatorade, Mexicola (a, er, Mexican cola), and Boing (a fruity drink)), and a couple of inflatable cement bags. Cruz Azul, you see, is sponsored and named after a cement company of the same name.

The match itself wasn’t so great for Cruz Azul fans. It reminded me of last season’s Liverpool v. Chelsea game (albeit at a much lower quality level). The home team looked by far the most dangerous, with the visitors content to defend (well) and hope to nick a goal. And Pumas did nick a goal, with the help of some awful linesmanship. A ball went out of play for a corner or goal kick (not sure who touched the ball last) but the Pumas player kicked it back onside, and from that, they scored. Cruz Azul continued pressing to equalise, but the Pumas keeper was having a great game. After a Cruz Azul player was sent off with half an hour to go, they continued attacking, but it was obvious that nothing was gonna happen, and in injury time, Cruz Azul got caught out in defence and there you go, the Battle of the Mediocre Mexico City Teams ended 2-0. The other Mexico City team, Club América, are top of the league and looking really strong. Considering how they’ve performed, they really should win the liguilla.

There’s one more away game left, but Cruz Azul need to win and for four teams to all not win to make it into the liguilla. But, they don’t deserve to be there. They’ve lost six of sixteen games, and not won a single away game all season. But, I’m looking forward to the Torneo clausura starting up again in January, and getting back to the stadium every other Saturday. It’s nice to be a regular.

Written by Craig

November 12th, 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in Blah blah,Sports

One Response to 'Cruz Azul'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Cruz Azul'.

  1. Man, what I’d give for an ice cold Boing right now…

    Stephen Jackson

    13 Nov 14 at 05:12

Leave a Reply