tkitching (tkitching) wrote,

The Football Match

My friend suggested I attend a football match during my time in Mexico City. Football is a national obsession, and I was in luck. There was a cross city derby between Cruz Azul and Pumas. My friend was otherwise engaged, but fortunately one of his work colleagues was able to join me and keep me safe.

The Estadio Azul (blue stadium) is set deep in the urban sprawl, surrounded by winding roads, a deep pit sunk into the soil, its run down concrete shell, dangerously steep steps, and back street inaccessibility leaving it overlooked for choice fixtures.

Football in Mexico is not a tame affair. You can't take a belt into the stadium in case you use it to whip people. Fortunately, three days of excellent food and beer meant this was not much of an issue. I was pat-searched and allowed into the ground.

The sound is a waterfall. From street level, you emerge at the top of a sudden cliff, floating above a cosmos of uncountable blue flags. Beneath them you imagine must be the fans, for that's surely the source of this unbridled sound, a huge samba band, underpinned by giant bass drums. It is a thrashing blue animal, limbs of colour, roars of brass, great hooves pounding in rhythm. I can only see the whole, not the parts.

And across from us is a rival, pawing at the dirt. Pumas fans confined in a giant cage, guttural and iron flavoured, blood close to the surface. 

Eventually, football breaks out. Pumas immediately score a goal, and the far animal swells and bellows, heaving at the chains that only barely restrain it.

My senses slowly coming round, I realize I've said nothing to my new friend for 15 minutes, too overwhelmed to speak, soaking in this bath of sensation. She understands and orders 2 beers.

I start to see the detail. Football here is a visceral, crude, masculine space. When a corner is awarded, six riot police with shields rush out from a bunker to form a missile barrier for the corner taker. Managers run along the sidelines, gesticulating furiously, the tailored suits and wild, frothing antics an unnatural combination. When the opposition keeper takes a goal kick, the fans shout as one 'Puto!' (faggot). Girls in sparkling leotards and red paper hats dance without rest to the rhythm of the beast, a thousand air horns add their presence and within the bowl the mixture rises, spicy and uncontrolled.

Half time arrives and giant inflatable adverts appear on the sidelines, a chicken, a bottle of beer, and a sack of cement. Night is coming and the sky fills with top heavy clouds, mighty and bruised, each one the final stages of a game of jenga, barely standing, about to drop on us. The flight path for Mexico City airport is overhead, and planes bank right over our island of light. 

The second half is a trance, sound and light. The footballers merely the empty space between two armies. They are tragic gladiators who will only ever see a thumbs down. The pressure grows, and we expect, no, believe in an equaliser. I crave the moment of euphoria, a chance to dissolve like alka-seltzer and become part of the animal, my own identity irrelevant and dissipated. My meagre strength added to the limbs and talons of the beast. But instead comes a second goal for Pumas, and the heavens suddenly open. Parents cover their children with pre bought plastic sheets as the beer and worse rains down from all corners of this arena. But it is the blood of the beast, cut and bleeding to death. Now the blue animal finally lies slain, the drums die, the flags wither and all the parts desiccate and disperse. In the distance, the challenger is triumphant, bellowing in ecstasy. 

These are acts of death and resurrection. Each week, the animal forms anew, wounds healed, miraculous and immaculate. Replica shirts and branded jackets are manifest acts of devotion, and strengthen their idol for the next battle. I am compelled to make my own small offering at the altar. I buy an Azul baseball cap, and melt away into the night.
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