America,  Around the world,  Mexico,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Attend a soccer match at the mythical Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (Mexico)

After Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Argentina, Colombia and Canada, Mexico is the 9th country where I will attend a soccer match.

Mexico City being a huge city, there are no less than 3 clubs playing in the Mexican first division:

  • Club America
  • Cruz Azul
  • Pumas of the UNAM

The 3 clubs of the capital are part of the big four of the championship completed by Chivas, the club of Guadalajara

With only 2 weeks left in Mexico City and already having a busy schedule for next weekend, this Saturday is the only day I will have the opportunity to attend a game. That day, Cruz Azul and Pumas are the two clubs of the capital playing at home

Not knowing much about these two teams, I make my choice according to the… stadium!

And it must be said that the Azteca Stadium where Cruz Azul plays is one of the most mythical stadiums in the world!

I will attend the Cruz Azul vs. Pachuca game

El Estadio Azteca

Inaugurated in 1966, El Estadio Azteca was for a long time the stadium with the largest capacity on the planet: it could hold 114,580 spectators ! Through restoration work, the capacity has since been reduced to 87,523 seats. For comparison, the Stade de France (the largest in France) has a capacity of 81,338 seats.

El Estadio Azteca is also famous for being the only stadium to have hosted two World Cup soccer finals, and not just any :

  • The 1970 Brazil-Italy final (4 – 1). A final which became a classic and which led to the first crown of King Pele
  • The 1986 Argentina-West Germany final (3 – 2) with the great Maradona

It is this same stadium, steeped in history, which during the quarter-final 1986 hosted the legendary Argentina-England. It was during this match that Maradona scored a double: the famous goal scored by hand(the hand of God will later say Maradona) followed just 3 minutes later by a fantastic goal that was later voted the goal of the century by FIFA. All this in a very tense geopolitical context barely 4 years after the Falklands war

The comments on the goal by the Uruguayan journalist Víctor Hugo Morales also became legendary.

I won’t have the opportunity to do so but it is possible to visit the stadium. If you are interested, Viator offers a tour on this page.

How do I get to Estadio Azteca?

In this huge city that is Mexico City El Estadio Azteca is slightly off-center but quite easily accessible by public transportation, contrary to what Google Map indicates, which does not find an itinerary. I think that Google Maps does not know the Tren Ligero to get there from the center.

I recommend the Moovit application which does the job very well.

You have to go to the end of line 2 at the Tasquena station.

Then get out to take the Tren Ligero (TL) light metro to the Estadio Azteca station which really puts you at the foot of the stadium.

It was the first time I took the subway in Mexico City and I was a little apprehensive about the reputation of the city. I found it rather good but very busy on this Saturday afternoon. Namely that a big part of each subway (1/3 ladle) is reserved for women and children. For women it’s quite quiet while for men it’s crowded 😀

It’s even more complicated with the Tren Ligero which is tiny: the equivalent of 2 subway cars. It may work well in normal times but it isn’t at all dimensioned for the rush of a soccer match. The Tasquena station is the terminus of the Trel Ligero. Literally the terminus since the rails stop. This requires a small maneuver from the driver and a (quick) intervention of a technician to modify the switch and turn around.

All this takes time and while Moovit was telling me 40 minutes, it took me about 1h10.

It’s very cheap: 5 MXN for the metro then 3 MXN for the Tren Ligero.

Buying my ticket

Usually I try to buy my tickets on the internet to make sure I have a place and to avoid having to struggle on the spot with my great command of foreign languages.

The official ticket office is managed by Ticketmaster but this time I was not able to buy my tickets online.

I’m not sure I understood everything but to get an electronic ticket, you had to pay with a Mexican credit card. With an international card, I had to physically pick up the tickets somewhere, I preferred to give up.

Watching match summaries on Youtube, I noticed that the stadium was still very far from being full (difficult to fill such a big stadium!), so I decided to try my luck by telling myself that I could buy them on the spot (and avoid paying the fee of a few dozen pesos charged by Ticketmaster).

It is very easy to find the ticket office which is at the entrance of the stadium on the right, look up to identify the Taquilla.

It’s easy to find, however there is a tail … huge!

It will take me about an hour to reach one of the counters . I had a little bit of stress because I saw a couple of (rare) foreign tourists being slightly yelled at by the locals because they were taking ages to buy their tickets.

In the end it was quite easy: I had already prepared my sentence: “un boleto lateral platea por favor” (a side bill in the middle please, without any guarantee of syntax accuracy). The saleswoman had a plan of the stands and showed me what was available. In a few seconds my choice was made and I had my precious sesame which cost me 100 pesos.

During the hour I had to wait in line, I was constantly solicited by black market ticket sellers. Afraid of buying fake tickets and being scammed because I didn’t know the price of the tickets, I preferred to continue queuing. But it must be working as I have seen many people using their services. They are very organized and they all carry a cardboard map of the grandstands to help us choose a seat.

Access to the stadium is then fast: a small scan with the metal detector followed by a small search (to which I was exonerated, my gringo head should not seem too threatening to the policeman).

Although it’s arrowed, it’s not very easy to find out which way to enter, there’s too much information on the ticket.

It is first necessary to identify the rampa to know by which access to enter the stadium, then the seccion to know by which door to enter the grandstand, then the fila and the asiento to find its place. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from the many stadiers. I involuntarily zapped them, but once you reach your stand, there are even ushers (like the ushers at the theater) who will accompany you to your place with a propina.

Having waited a long time for my ticket and having taken longer than expected in transportation, I missed the first 15 minutes. The score was still 0 – 0. I was surprised by the mexican people’s relaxed attitude, it didn’t seem to be a problem to be late, there were still 200 people behind me at the ticket office!

The stress of the belt

Around the stadium, there are a multitude of stands offering food, jerseys, flags, and goodies of all kinds … Some of them propose to put in deposit bags, strollers and even… belts ! With which you can’t enter the stadium.

I’m starting to get a lot of soccer games on the meter all over the world, it’s the first time I’ve seen that!

I don’t mind giving up a belt for 90 minutes but mine is a bit special, it has a secret pocket hiding a few bills to take out in case of a hard blow.

I was naive and tried to get in with it, it worked! I think it’s the belts with metal buckles that are the problem, mine is made of plastic.

At the end of the game, you have to queue to get your belt back ^^.

If you have a belt and can do without it for a few hours, it may be easier to remove it before going to the stadium.

The atmosphere and the game

Arriving at my place: bad surprise, I have the sun in my face (the game started at 5pm), it will be the case until halftime.

As I suspected, the stadium is far from being full, the capacity is far too large. So, even if the atmosphere is good, it sounds rather hollow

The atmosphere is good-natured, people come to be entertained

Beverages, peanuts, popcorn, pistachios, chips, pizza, ice cream, fruit, doughnuts, hamburger, cotton candy, soups, … the parade of street vendors is permanent and the choice is impressive. It is impossible to die of hunger or thirst here. The vendors have chasubles on which the prices are written. You just have to call them when they are nearby and they arrive quickly. Not surprisingly the prices are expensive. For example, a 33 cl bottle of water costs 25 pesos (a quarter of the price of the ticket!).

Even if they take advantage of the match to eat and drink, the public is no less demanding and knowledgeable: the beautiful gestures are applauded and mistakes are whistled.

On the lawn, the level of play is correct but nothing incredible. At first glance I would say that it’s worth the bottom of the French L1.

After a rather boring first half, the scenario of the second half is going to be more exhilarating.

The visitors open the score at the 54th minute which will wake up Cruz Azul who will equalize 3 minutes later.

It gets complicated at the 75th minute for Cruz Azul after an eviction.

Although reduced to 10, Cruz Azul gets a penalty in the 83rd minute after consultation with the VAR after the referee had initially served a corner. The tension is at its peak while waiting for the decision. The public exulted three times in 5 minutes: when the referee decided to consult the video, when the penalty was whistled and then when it was converted to take the advantage.

Cruz Azul would even score a third goal in the 86th minute. Final score: 3 – 1, the audience can sing in their hearts “Azul! Azul!” (must be the first time I can follow a fan song abroad, even in Montreal in Quebec it was more complicated).

Game summary

If you are interested.

The return home

Tired and moderately motivated to take public transit back home, I decided to call a Uber.

It’s very easy because the road is right next to the stadium, no difficulty to find the driver. Despite the traffic, my driver arrived in about ten minutes.

It will take 35 minutes to get me back to the center for 140 pesos, which is almost exactly what I paid in total to go by public transportation + my seat + my bottle of water 😀

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