Friday, November 13, 2015
Along with Maracana, Nou Camp and Wembley, Mexico City's Aztec Stadium is the holy grail for millions of football fans. My first international footie memories were not of England winning the World Cup in 1966 (too young), but as a nine-year-old watching Mexico 70 and particularly the extraordinary Italy - West Germany semi, and the final when Brazil thumped Italy 4:1, both of which were in the Aztec Stadium.
Tonight I finally got to go and I don't mind saying I had goosebumps as we approached the stadium and, once inside, caught my first glimpse of the hallowed turf and tiers of fans stretching up into the heavens. At 50 years old, it's showing its age a bit but It's still a wonderful stadium with a fabulous atmosphere. There are vendors milling around the seats selling beer and food (yup, you can drink yourself into a stupor here if you want). A bunch of guys in front of us tanked up but it was all very good-humoured and non-threatening. Even at the end of the match, when the upper tiers showed the stalls with beer and plastic beakers, it felt more like a fiesta than a riot.
And what was the match? An international: Mexico v El Salvador in a CONCACAF qualifier, Mexico winning comfortably 3:0. Hardly a surprise: fourteen of El Salvador's most experienced players were given life bans for match-fixing last September and another seven were suspended for going on strike over working conditions, so it was a team of novices on the field. Actually, it was a wonder Mexico only scored three.