Rabid fans. Days off work. Tequila shots.

And it’s not even the World Cup

Illustration: Ryan Olbrysh

The message crawls across the bottom of the projection screens: “To listen to the Mexico-United States soccer game in English, adjust your digital audio to French.” Nobody here—out past the Los Compadres Meat Market and the Super Mercado del Pueblo on Rancho—wants to hear English. Approximately 99.9 percent are Mexican.

Ask them, and they tell stories. A 45-year-old man who took a day off from his UPS job to watch the game. A 37-year-old who came to the room because he does not own a television; nor does he have a job. Or a green card. A 20-year-old U.S.-born man just taking a minute to celebrate his heritage. He has a shift at a fried-chicken joint in a couple of hours.

Hundreds of men like them come to Club Tequila inside Santa Fe Station wearing green Mexico jerseys, with sombreros and little flags painted on their cheeks. And they are given two free shots of Jose Cuervo.

Much has been written in the American press about the international passion for soccer. These stories come every four years when English natives swarm the Crown & Anchor, drinking beer at 6 a.m. during the World Cup. But this isn’t the World Cup. It’s a match that plays a part in who gets to play in the 2010 World Cup. It still feels like American football’s Big Game.

The room explodes with each Mexico goal. The crowd jumps and hugs, chanting “Meh-he-co!” The joy is contagious.

One of the few white guys in the room receives a bear hug from a landscaper as the game ends with a Mexico win. It’s a heckuva a way to spend a Wednesday afternoon.


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