Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Major injuries for Charlie Davies.

I love watching Charlie Davies play. He is a true athlete, he's energetic on the pitch, he plays with great skill and he has the heart of a lion. We all know about the car wreck by now.

Let's show Charlie how much we appreciate and believe in him by pledging to be there the first time he returns to the pitch.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Assault on Azteca 2009

So as any of you can gather from this blog, I have been to many US matches and a fair number of them have been away matches.  I went to every US game in World Cup 2002 and 2006 and also the games in Copa America 2007.  Something I always wanted to do was to go to an away match with my Dad.

My Dad has been to only one other US match before - a 1-1 draw with Haiti played in the unfriendly confines of the Orange Bowl back in 2005.  It was a lackluster match where we were 2 of maybe 20 US fans and I have always wanted to show my Dad what the real support was like.  Somehow, I was able to persuade him to come to Azteca with me.

My Dad has traveled a fair bit and after he and my Mom joined me in Spain during the summer, I think he was eager to see and experience more new things.  As expected, he did just that.

Because I was flying in from Chicago, and he from South Florida, we met at the airport in Mexico City.  I could not find a good meeting point online so I told him to meet my by a restaurant that I remembered eating at in 2005 (Note to all airport administrators out there - update your websites - something that should be universally included is a clear, detailed map that includes designated meeting points).  Dad arrived before me and could not locate the restaurant because it had since closed (despite still being listed on the website).  So, I began to wander around the airport when I noticed a McDonald's in the offing.  Sure enough, Dad thought the same thing . . . Let's meet at mickey D's (no, I did not go there for food).

We easily made our way into the city via the subway (at 2 pesos/15 ¢ per person, the DF subway is the cheapest in the world) and headed straight for the Galleria Plaza Hotel in the Zona Rosa.  We dropped off our bags and immediately headed out in search of our first tacos.  We then made our way to the ruins of Templo Mayor in the Zocalo to take in a bit of culture before meeting up with many familiar faces.

After the ruins, we returned to the hotel and met up with Superlimey and his wife, Dougie fresh and the ESC/NJB crew.   We had a few giant 32-40 oz beers on the roof and then headed out for a dinner where we ran into the Minnesota crew.  We also met Ashwin, who is putting this film together which I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic piece:

After dinner was what I was really looking forward to though as we went to Yuppies (horrible, we all know) to meet up with a ton of other US fans including, Bryan and Dante from the Venezuela trip, Mike from WC 2002 and 2006, Scott from Mexico 2005 and countless other matches since and Marco, my buddy who was in my program in Madrid.  Awesome time.

Game-day began with a hangover and did not begin ominously as my search for the now customary victory cigars for Ethan and myself went unfulfilled.  I could have picked up some Cohibas of questionable authenticity from Sanborne's, but I did not want to start the day by having the Mexicans being one up on me.  End result - no cigar (literally and figuratively).

About 75 of us made our way to Azteca on the Metro - Doug captured some great footage of this HERE - and we did not really encounter any problems.  We got to the stadium around noon for a 3 pm match so we had plenty of time to sample the delicious fare from the food vendors outside the stadium.  Critical miscalculation though in that we did not realize that it is prohibited to drink outside the stadium.  3 hours before kickoff and no beer = me not happy.

As more and more Mexican fans arrived, the atmosphere began to pickup with lots of jeering coming from every direction.  The police steered all the US fans toward a corner of the main gate and quickly shuttled us inside so they could keep the more aggressive fans at bay.  They marched us around the stadium and into the upper deck where we were immediately greeted with boos and whistles from the 1/4 full stadium.

With over 2 hours till kickoff and 1.5 hours till beer sales began, we kind of sat around and did nothing.  Every now and then, for no particular reason, the banter between us and the Mexicans would swell and the whistling and jeering would reach a peak before tapering back down.  It was very surreal to be part of this human wave of mutual hate (and don't kid yourself, inside that stadium, there was plenty of hate flowing both ways).

Finally, at 2:30 pm sharp, beer sales commenced and there was something to occupy our time.  The beer prices increased from 10 pesos to 30 pesos (though they also doubled in size) but this did not preclude our section from making our beer vendors very happy people again.  Another swell of hate arose just as the slew of Americans suckers who opted to purchase their tickets through arrived.  These jeers were nothing compared to the reception our national anthem received.  This was the first time that I could not hear a single note of our national anthem.  Mexico fans, I don't care how you want to defend yourself - that is classless.  Your inferiority complex rivals that of Red Sox fans.

Obviously, the match result speaks for itself.  What I found interesting is the behavior of the Mexican fans surrounding us.  When we scored, they fell silent.  After each of their goals, they erupted and started throwing everything imaginable over the 5'2" riot police with full force at our section.  Not at any one person in particular - these idiots were trophy hunting.  "Let me see if I can hit someone in the face with a full bottle of water, a rock, or maybe even a battery"  Complete muppetts.  Somebody could have been seriously hurt.  Some will say that we should have expected this - that is fucking retarded.  This is a sporting event that is heavily regulated by FIFA rules.  Somebody needs to turn their eyes to this behavior before it gets out of hand.  As they say - it's all fun and games till somebody loses an eye - and that very realistically could have happened.

With about 5 minutes to go, the idiot Mexican police (paging redundancy department) tried to persuade us to leave saying that they couldn't control the Mexican fans after the match.  Apparently the stadium administrators have never observed international protocol when it comes to the exit of away fans which long ago settled that all home fans should be dispatched first - and only after the home fans have cleared the are should the visiting fans be released.

No, these Mexican oompah-loompahs cops let us stay till the final whistle blew then promptly marched us out of the stadium.  One of the cops didn't take too kindly to the way I spoke to him and wanted to have some words with me.  Not wanting to entertain the corrupt idiot, I did what any intelligent person would have done and swapped shirts with Spliff to disguise myself.  Worked like a charm and I made it out of the stadium A-OK.  Dad was covered in beer and other liquids of questionable origin.

The cops led us on a Bataan Death March through a gauntlet of Mexican fans waiting to taunt us.  Many of them were trying to instigate a fight by reaching over the useless efforts of the police and touching our heads.  One idiot grabbed Tom Fina's hat off of my head.  However, nothing we had faced was as dangerous as the brick-sized blocks of ice being lofted on top of us from multiple directions.  Had this happened in the US, the cops would have responded in overwhelming force and pulverized the perps.  Not in Mexico . . .

The cops eventually corralled everyone into a few paddy-wagons to take the US fans to a subway line that was not connected to the stadium so that everyone could get back to town safely.  Not wanting to make it easier for the idiot cop to spot me, I dropped off from the group and grabbed a ride from some Mexican fans driving back towards the center.  Their seats were in the lower bowl.  They were genuinely nice - sharing beer and food with me.  They did not resemble the idiots we were placed near at all.  Thanks FEMEXFUT.

Anyway, I made it back to the hotel and was showered and changed before anyone else made it back.  We celebrated our survival and first lead in Azteca with many a shot of tequilla.  Dougie, Ashwin and I headed out late night to check out the clubs but were too tired to deal with it.  A day well spent.

The next day, Dad and I went out to Teotihuacan - an amazing site.

All in all, a worthwhile trip.  Mexico, we will come back and beat you there one day.  I will keep coming back until we do.   I love your culture, your food, your music . . . your people.  But when the US plays Mexico, I hope we kick the piss out of you every time.

An interesting thing at the airport on the way out . . . we had to pass in front of a full-body thermal scanner for a H1N1 check. Good thing tequilla sweats don't register.

Here are some pics:


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Where, oh where, has the fooligan gone?

What up? Que Pasa? Como vai?

Hmmm . . . It has been almost 1 year since I last blogged. There is a reason for that . . . the fooligan left the building. Well, the fooligan is back. Not really back, but at least back on the blog.

After going to every single qualifier in 2008 and a couple friendlies to boot, I dropped my plans to make it to every qualifier in a cycle. I have only been to one match this year! You know it, it was Azteca.

So what happened? Well, I left my job in New York and decided to pursue a passion . . . which predictably involves soccer. I returned to the classroom in pursuit of an LL.M in International Sports Law in Madrid, Spain. Leaving my life was a shock to the senses, as was leaving so many friends behind. However, it created the opportunity to make new friends from all over the world and to gain another perspective during this period of "change."

It also offered the opportunity to take the fooligan show on the road. A group of classmates and I were able to purchase an abono (pass) for the remainder of the temporada (season) for Atlético de Madrid. Not only was this great value (130 euros for 10 matches), but we were able to see some amazing matches - Atléti-Barca, Atléti-Valencia, Atléti-Villareal . . .

What made it extra-special was the amazing and exhillirating play of el uruguayo, Diego Forlán. Despite doing Liverpool for 2 goals when he was with the scum, Forlán, is one of my favorite players of all time because he is a constant threat and runs his ass off. You never see him taking a dive and he is more than willing to track back when needed. The combination of Forlán and Kun Agüero along with Atléti's incompetent defending ensured that each match was a nail-biter. The amazing atmosphere at the Vicente Calderón has inspired a true bond between me and the colchoneros.

While in Madrid, I also took the opportunity to see Real Madrid play at home thrice (though, stupidly, I was too cheap to spring for the stunner when Liverpool knocked off Real at home thanks to Yossi Benayoun's improbable header). The Kuschman and I took in the crosstown derby which saw Atléti cruelly be held to a draw (1-1). Kuschman and I then waited in line for 5 hours to get tickets to El Clásico in which Barcelona delivered one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen when they knocked off Real 6-2. Finally, Diane, Beth and I took in the 3-1 thrashing delivered at the hands of Mallorca which saw Cléber expose everything that was wrong with Real with a ridiculous golazo.

All in all, Real were terrible and their fans were worse. A bunch of fickle whiners who seemed more akin to Atlanta Braves fans (sorry Lloyd) than futbol fans. Atléti on the other hand offered up some exciting futbol and the fans are top class. The highlight for me was during the match against Barca and every single person in the Calderón was chanting "Muerta Dani, Muerta!" (Die Dani, Die) after Dani Alves exaggerated an injury.

We also got to see Spain take on Turkey in a World Cup Qualifier. 15 Euros for a great seat in the Santiago Bernabeu. How much are tickets to our WCQs again?

Anyway, my time in Spain was amazing and unforgettable. After being there for 6 months, I returned to the US and moved to Chicago for a couple months. Great city in the summer (I'll withhold my comments about the rest of the year).

I also got to make the trek down to Azteca with my Dad, which was an amazing experience that is worthy of its own post entirely (coming tomorrow, I swear, already have it written - just want to add some photos).

Now, I am working and living down in Rio de Janeiro. I know, I am one lucky sonofabitch. I love it here. Estou aprendendo portugués e surfar tambem. (I'm learning portuguese and how to surf). Moro quatro quadras da praia no Leblon. (I live 4 blocks from the beach in Leblon) The scenery is amazing and inspiring everyday. When I run on the beach, I run right past the canal that flows through the Jardim da Allah and have a ridiculous view of Corcovado and Cristo.

The other day, I went to the Maracanã for the Flamengo-Fluminense match and that is what really inspired me to revive this blog. The atmosphere there was the best I have ever witnessed and it got me thinking, hey, I am still fooliganing it up, why not keep blogging. Anyway, I will put up a short post on this as well with pictures and some videos.

The match at Maracanã got me thinking though. In 2009, I will have been inside the Vicente Calderón, the Santiago Bernabeu, the Camp Nou, the Azteca, the Maracaná, and in 10 days, the Bombanera. That is 6 veritable temples of football in one year. Yes, the fooligan in me is alive and well.

More to come . . . but, my blog is back!