The NFL is hugely popular in Mexico, and fans are preparing for a big game on Sunday. The New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders will meet in Mexico City to play at Estadio Azteca.
The visiting athletes will hopefully play amid the cheers of supportive fans. Or that’s what the most passionate fans hope, at least. Others have concerns about a culture clash on Sunday.
Twenty-year-old student Didier Jackson told USA Today that he asked fellow fans to refrain from heckling the NFL players. His concerns stem from the somewhat common instances of crowds chanting insults and homophobic slurs during soccer matches. Jackson said he fears the NFL might stop organizing games in Mexico if that happens.
Soccer fans may be familiar with a certain chant, heard even during games played by the national team, where the crowd erupts into chants of “puto.” The term has many derivative meanings but the most common association is that of a male prostitute. The chant has crossed over to some NFL games and was heard during last year’s match in Mexico between the Raiders and the Texans.
“We know the NFL is sensitive to bad publicity,” Jackson said. “We waited a long time to get games here. We don’t want them to go away.”
According to the NY Times, the NFL Mexico games have become huge events, in part because attendance at the game carries some social cachet for those who don’t want to miss out.
Sports marketing analyst Rodrigo Latorre told the Times that there’s some sort of social effect the games have on people “not wanting to miss the big event in the city.” Latorre credits this social factor as the reason behind the sold-out NFL Mexico games. The two games scheduled in Mexico City during the 2016 and 2017 seasons both sold out in a venue with a capacity of 72,000 seats. Notably, the average price ticket price was $95 in a country with an average earning per capita of a little less than $900 per month.
Reportedly, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers are the NFL teams with the most fans in Mexico – likely because they were the first to enter the consciousness of the country with the earliest games broadcast during the 1970s. The Raiders and Patriots are not far behind; both teams have a large fan base in Mexico.