04 November 2011

Turista Libre Tijuana fútbol game round 2

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The Jello shots had melted. The bus stereo had been stolen. The seats that were rightfully ours had been Shanghaied. But Turista Libre was too busy chanting among shirtless teenagers and tossing beer into the air to care, as Tijuana's Xoloitzcuintles rallied to win against Pachuca's Tuzos 3-2.

First things first. How the chingado does one say Xoloitzcuintles? Cho. Loh. Eats. Quint. Lays.

This was the first of my five Xolos games that the Tijuana soccer team, named after a mystical breed of ancient hairless Mexican dog, actually proved victorious. It's a feat that's proven nearly impossible ever since they ascended to the Primera Division, Mexican pro soccer's equivalent of the NFL, in May. God only knows how many Virgen de Guadalupe votive candles have been lit in hopes of keeping them from losing their way back into the minor leagues since then.

Nevertheless, the town loves their pro losers so much that hour-long lines never fail to form outside the box office as soon as tickets go on sale the Tuesday before game day, only to sell out by midday Wednesday. The Xolos' ascension into the major leagues has inspired nothing less than a widespread renaissance of hometown pride among Tijuanenses, a people who are historically known for their allegiance to the San Diego Padres and Chargers over any local counterpart. All this despite the questionable extracurriculars of the team's owner, former Tijuana mayor and Caliente casino mogul Jorge Hank Rhon.

Not a day passes that I don't see at least one Xolos jersey in the streets or a lifted pickup with a giant tattooed on its tailgate. That said, I always figured that the mood in the air if and when the beloved perdadores actually win would be incomparable. Surprise, it's true.

Aside from the Tecate vendors in neon vests spotting the people sea that filled Estadio Caliente was a mess of red and black. Ponchos, jerseys, the occasional shirtless nut in wig and full body paint. Our tickets were for the southern end of the stadium, alongside the stomping grounds of La Masakr3, the Xoloitzcuintles' official fan club. They're printed with specific rows and seat numbers, like official major league sporting events do around the globe usually do. But upon arrival just after kickoff we found that the seating system works on a first-come-first-serve basis. So if you actually care to sit, or at least stand in front of the seat you've technically paid for, get their at least an hour before kickoff. Showing up mere minutes after kickoff equates to willingly forfeiting your spot.

TL crowd hung at the out at the top of the stands, which while distancing us from the play-by-play kept us closer to the beer vendors. After halftime we worked up the guts to sweet talk the security guards into letting us past the chainlink barrier that held back. "You're sure?" they asked, eyebrow raised and warned that we'd be doing so at our own risk. Then they ran through what goes down if and when the Xolos actually score. The crowd, half shirtless, would lunge forward and beer rain from the sky. That's exactly what happened. Not once but twice but thrice, leading the Xolos to the first victory I'd ever witnessed.

Before kickoff we did a late lunch at where else but the town’s new taqueria shrine to the team, Xolo Tacos. On Agua Calienta at Cuauhtemoc Sur, just across the street from Calimax, it's an edible ode to everything Xolo. Xolito, Xolisimo, Xolostada, Xolotaco, XoloMayor Xorreada, Quesaxolo. Whatever you get, drench it in the brown salsa. Made in house, it's laced with Maggi or some soy sauce or something. Unreal.

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