USA vs Mexico at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is a bucket list item for many soccer fans. Going there as a visiting team fan can feel a little intimidating, but the atmopshere and game make the expereince unforgettable! That said, there are a few things you should know and be prepared for in your first trip:
1. Don’t bring anything to the stadium that you can’t part with
I walked in with nothing but a myself, my cell phone, and a poncho, and the poncho didn’t even make it inside. Security did not mess around, and many people lost scarves, hats, bandanas, and other obscure items. Do they all make sense? Nope. Should you try to argue with security? Absolutely not. Yes, it is annoying; especially when you see some people getting past security with their scarves while you are dumping yours into the trash. Instead of being frustrated when security takes away your favorite USA gear, take after the minimalist lifestyle and bring as little as possible into the stadium. Is it really all the bad?! You’ll actually be focused on the game the whole time, which is why you flew down there to begin with.
2. Don’t get too drunk before
Yes, you are in Mexico and you want to drink. Save your excessive drinking for the night before or following the game. I personally saw one person being denied entry into the Azteca for being too drunk, and heard of several others being turned away. Were they too drunk to enter? Probably not. However, there is a heightened sense of security and the extra thousand police are actually surrounding you to protect you – they don’t have time to handle the drunken version of you that gets too rowdy. Trust me, you can handle not being drunk for one game.
3. Hydrate before
The weather in Mexico City is almost ideal; year-round 75-80 degrees during the day and 60-65 degree at night with very low humidity. Why the heck do you need to hydrate then? I am glad you asked. The food/drink inside the stadium is different than what you see in the US, you don’t have free reign of the stadium as your are blocked in your section by riot police, and you are going to rely on walking vendors for drinks. During the game I was at, they sold us no beer (probably the greatest travesty of all), and very little water. The majority of what they sold was Coca-Cola (or as I call it, sugar). “How can they do that?!” “Isn’t that illegal?!” Because it is their stadium, and no it isn’t illegal. The game is 90 minutes long. You’ll survive. Just to be safe though, drink some water before you head in. This is also a great reason to refer back to number 2.
4. If traveling with US Soccer supporters, you can leave your stuff on the bus
This one proved most helpful for me. The buses are locked up and completely safe. The trek from the city to the stadium takes anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, and you may want have some food you want to eat along the way, or a change of clothes for after the game. You can lock all this stuff on the bus and take just yourself into the game. Just be mindful – once you leave the bus to go inside the stadium you cannot go back to the bus until the game is over.
5. You may get stuff thrown on you
This shouldn’t be anything new though. When I go to a US Soccer match, I expect to have some beer thrown on me when we score a goal. Pure joy takes over, and for some reason that translates to people not being able to hold onto their drinks. A game at the Azteca is a little different, as the people throwing stuff on you will not be your fellow US supporters, but instead Mexico fans. Most likely, it will be beer. There have been stories about urine being thrown in cups and bags.
Luckily, I didn’t experience that. However, if I had, would it really be the worst thing in the world? No. Disgusting? Well, yeah. If it does happen and you feel totally violated, get on Facebook live and tell everyone (note: this will not change anything, but seems to be how society copes with things I guess).
The chances of it happening aren’t likely, and you are more likely to have some beers thrown your way. This did happen during my time, and it happens mostly at the end of the game. The most important thing to take away is the vast majority of people left the game without anything thrown on them. Just be prepared in case it does.
6. Charge your phone completely before the game
If you plan on taking pictures, your phone is the safest bet. I saw some people who were able to bring in their GoPros or point-and-shoot cameras. Most of us are stuck just using our smartphones to capture those memories, and taking photos and video drain your battery. Be sure to charge up before you leave the bus!
7. The process is a bit hectic
Security is trying to move two-thousand-ish USA fans from outside the stadium, to inside the stadium, to their actual section. This isn’t a fast or easy task. There are a lot of moving parts, so just try to look to the leaders and follow the large herd of USA fans.
8. Understand that you are the visitor in someone else’s home – norms are different and you aren’t entitled to certain things.
This isn’t America; you are in someone else’s home. The norms are different. You aren’t entitled to certain things that you may feel like you are. They don’t have to serve you beer. They don’t have to let you bring your scarf into the stadium. Do you feel safe? If yes, than you are fine.
9. If going with the USA supporters group – you will feel safe the entire time
There was not one time during the entire game day process that I felt unsafe. Mostly because fans aren’t really out to hurt you. That, and you will have have a police escort the entire time.
10. It really isn’t that scary
The videos you may see make it looks like an insanely dangerous atmosphere. It probably would be if it wasn’t for the insane amounts of security, as there are always fans who take it too far. Even with the police lines, many fans could be spotted talking to each other and snapping photos together. Those are the images you don’t see, but they happen way more frequently than a Mexico fan trying to climb the fence into the USA section.
11. Mexico soccer fans are passionate – but that doesn’t mean they are full of hate or want to hurt you
After I came home, everyone asked me “weren’t your scared,” or “how safe did you feel.” For some reason, people assume that all Mexicans hate Americans and are out to get us which is pretty far from true. Despite what most of the clips show you, fans get along well for most of the game. Believe it or not, people are actually interested that you would travel to to their hometown to see a game. They want you to enjoy it and love it like they do. Even traveling around Mexico City, I had a lot of fans approach me and ask for pictures. This is the great part about sport; it can help break down some cultural barriers. It isn’t all perfect, but it is as hateful or scary as some may make it out to be.
12. Speaking of people wanting pictures with you, so do the riot police.
It’s a unique experience and you’ll see a lot of police taking pictures of the US fans marching into the stadium. And guess what, you can take pictures with them too (and even the horses). Don’t be afraid to ask and have some fun with it! The pictures you will have after that highlight the intensity and atmosphere of the game (and maybe you’ll catch a horse smiling at the camera with you).
13. Azteca is a historic stadium and Mexico plays well there
In fact, the US National team has never won a World Cup qualifier there. They have played 12 games in Mexico City (including friendlies), and have only ever one time – in a friendly.
Is it the altitude? The sun? The 90,000 fans? The history? A combination of all of these things? Whatever the case, a game at the Azteca is something special.
14. Have fun
Let go of the fact that things may be different or a little chaotic. You are here for a huge game, and is a bucket list item for so many. Soak up that atmosphere and make some awesome memories.
Would you ever travel to see at game at Estadio Azteca? If you have been, what are your thoughts on seeing a game at this stadium?