When I first discussed with the Waking the Red team what they wanted me to cover when I was in Mexico I was greeted with a number of responses. "Can you get tacos everywhere?", "is tequila cheaper than water?", and my personal favourite "does being afraid make soccer viewing more fun?".
Well dear reader, over the next week I hope to answer these questions and more as I travel to watch the men's national team play its fourth group stage game. Below is the first journal entry of my experience as I travel down to the most famous city in North American soccer.
The Mexico Diaries: Como Estas, Mexico?
Saturday March 26th - 7:33am
It's all quiet in terminal one at Toronto's Pearson International airport. Sleepy couples curl up with Ipads as those arriving from other flights move silently through the hallways overhead. Dawn has broken now and among the sleepy and drained individuals sitting at gate 75, there is a small red clad contingent gathered together keeping each other awake. Fifteen of us will be flying into Mexico City from Toronto to join up with the Voyageurs flying in from Vancouver, among a few others from the provinces in between.
It is here where the journey begins. On the heels of 3-0 defeat to Mexico less than 10 hours ago supporters' spirits remain high, if not fatigued, from the late night and early morning. Trevor of the Supporter's Section, the Canadian travel group we are travelling with begins the dialog. Stories flow of past trips to Cuba and Belize where Voyageurs have travelled in the past.
Both of those trips saw positive results for Canada, Mexico City may prove to have a different result. With a number of Voyageurs and news outlets high on Canada producing a result in the first leg, those hopes were slowly dismissed as the game wore on. Despite a positive start for Canada who looked to control the ball, maintain possession and effectively absorb pressure, Mexico found the breakthrough in the first half and didn't look back. It was a lack of finishing that kept Canada out of the game with a number of chances being sent wide of the target.
The result may have dampened some spirits of the V's but it was the other match that salvaged some happiness from the night. A 90th minute equalizer by El Salvador may have made fans in Canada nearly as happy as those in San Salvador. A 2-2 draw from El Salvador and Honduras meant Canada remained in second place with four points while El Salvador sat third with two points, and Honduras last with one.
This result also played a role with the Mexican squad, who have now unofficially qualified for the Hex. Sitting atop the group with three wins from three games Mexico needs only another win to officially clinch their place in the final round of qualifying. With two home games remaining against Canada and Honduras and an away fixture in El Salvador, it's hard to see Mexico not coming away with three more wins.
Mexico has the flexibility to take their foot off the gas pedal and rotate through more of their squad - but if they choose to do so will it be this week against Canada or in their final game against Honduras? Time will tell all, but for now the V's are currently more interested in a tight game and taking in what will be an impressive Mexican atmosphere.
The trip is a five day long experience with everyone arriving in the Mexican capital Saturday and touring around the city leading up to Tuesday night's fixture. As well as travelling and staying together, the group of thirty will be taking in Mexican culture in the form of Tequila tours, a luchador match, a tour of the Azteca while finding time to explore the city on our own. The trip will offer more than just a game as it is also Easter Holidays in Mexico where celebrations run for two weeks and the population flocks to the coastal getaways to relax and celebrate.
I am looking forward to taking in not just a soccer game and Mexican culture, but what a football driven city looks like. With multiple teams in Liga MX I expect club and country paraphernalia hanging from every residence and shop with soccer fandom and culture oozing from the city and it's people.
But for now, it is time to board. Mexico is waiting.