Water vapor from the misters blowing 20 feet above the crowd could barely be felt by the sweltering congregation below, but they didn’t care. The crowd of more than 500, pretty evenly split between those wearing green jerseys with white and red stripes, and those wearing red with green and white stripes, was gathered at the Broadacres Marketplace swap meet Monday afternoon to celebrate a national religion: futbol. Or, to the uninitiated, “soccer.” Specifically, the FIFA World Cup, and the Mexican national team.
Broadacres management hosted the event with cheap beer, soda and tasty treats — Broadacres says it’s already the third-largest dispenser of churros in the world — plus nine flat-screen televisions hanging over the crowd. Green, white and red balloons were quickly purloined by parents and tied to their young.
The World Cup usually spikes American interest in soccer — record numbers watched the U.S team tie with Portugal the previous day — but to Latin Americans it’s more than just a game. It encourages frenzied displays of emotion and familial devotion that can be truly extraordinary. Broadacres, for this game versus Croatia, was Little Mexico. Young and old, as many women as men, they hailed from Jalisco and Juarez and the Districto Federal of Mexico City; from Oaxaca and Chiapas and Baja California. And they came from El Salvador and Nicaragua and California and Washington state and, of course, Las Vegas. All cheered the “Tricolorados” of the Mexican team.
The first 45 minutes resulted, as World Cup matches often do, in a stalemate. It was zero-all at half-time.
I asked Ramon Rivera, 22, of Las Vegas, which team he supported in this round. “Mexico!” he scoffed, as if there were an alternative. Ramon is an American citizen, but he’s not Mexican; his family is from El Salvador. “My friends are from Mexico, so, you know, I’m going to be with them,” he said. One of those friends, Eduardo Galavic, 21, was born in California, but his family is from Mexico.
They soon had reason to cheer. Mexico scored at the 72-minute mark, bringing out the swinging jazz combo of drums, vuvuzuelas and wooden clicky things, accompanied by wildly flailing Mexican flags. Mexico scored twice more before Croatia came back with an anemic goal in the final minutes.
With the win, Mexico advanced to the next round. The USA, meanwhile, has (at this writing) a good chance to also advance. Which raises the intriguing, if unlikely, possibility of a Mexico-USA confrontation. That would certainly divide some loyalties in the Broadacres parking lot.
Eduardo and Ramon? They said they’d support the U.S. team.
“If the USA wins, everybody would start liking our football,” Eduardo said. “Everybody would start liking futbol.”