While millions watched worldwide as Mexico edged the U.S. by a 2-1 score in yesterday's World Cup soccer qualifier, over 100,000 fans were lucky enough to actually be in Estadio Azteca for one of the biggest games in CONCACAF history.
Of those 100,000-plus, only a precious few were cheering for the visiting side, including an American college student named Alyssa, who has spent her summer studying in Cuernavaca, Mexico (about an hour away). Alyssa was kind enough to describe her USA-Mexico gameday experience in this exclusive Bleacher Report interview.
B/R: Alyssa, thanks for taking the time to tell us about your trip to Estadio Azteca yesterday. First of all, what made you decide to buy tickets to the game?
Alyssa: We had heard pretty much all summer that this game was coming up, so my friends and I jumped at the chance to attend a game that was internationally important and so accessible.
B/R: Did you sit in the USA supporters section or go with friends from Mexico?
Alyssa: If I were to have sat in the U.S. section, I would have been covered in beer, pop, food, and whatever else was throwable and harassed to no end. So no, since we were with some Mexican friends, my American friends and I sat in the Mexico section, although we were easy to pick out.
B/R: What was the craziest part of the whole gameday experience?
Alyssa: I love the crowd's energy at the games. I mean, in the U.S., sure, we get excited, but nothing like this. I think the difference is having the whole stadium supporting just one team. It unifies the crowd, obviously, and therefore the cheers are louder, more extravagant, and they sing pridefully every song that can represent their team and nation.
B/R: The media talked a lot about the smog and altitude and how it might affect the USA team. How would you describe the weather/climate situation, and did you think it seemed like players got tired or worn down?
Alyssa: As for me, I'm well-accustomed to the weather here, but the smog seemed less apparent than normal yesterday. The U.S. team didn't seem to be worn out because of the weather, they were just getting dominated offensively.
B/R: What surprised you most about the gameday experience?
Alyssa: I expected the fans to be more aggressive than they actually were. I talked to a Mexican friend about my assumption of being harassed as an American, and he said the games between Ecuador or Costa Rica have more aggressive crowds and fights between fans.
B/R: Who did you think played best and worst, if any players stuck out?
Alyssa: No one was really a standout yesterday. Mexico dominated offensively, as I already mentioned, and the U.S. played good positional defense, just not smart play.
B/R: What was your prediction for the game result going in—and who were you cheering for?
Alyssa: I was cheering for the U.S., as quietly as I could being surrounded by Mexicans, so I had predicted that the U.S. would win. Not only in my favor did I make this assumption, but based on the last matchup two weeks ago, the U.S. didn't play their starters, so I thought that we could have a chance to get revenge, but that obviously didn't happen.
B/R: How long did it take to get into or out of the stadium with traffic, crazy fans, etc?
Alyssa: Walking out of the stadium was a mess. Imagine the population of a decent size town all heading for the train. Yep, it was crazy. We were jam-packed in a crowd walking for about 45 minutes to the train, which was just outside of the stadium gates. Once we were on the train, we turned into a game of sardines. It was terrible. Traffic flowing out of the city wasn't terrible at all, so it makes me think that it was mostly a DF (Mexico City) population inside the stadium.
B/R: Would you recommend attending a World Cup qualifier outside your native country to other fans? Why or why not?
Alyssa: I definitely would. I think that any opportunity to see your native country from another country's viewpoint will blow your mind. That's what this trip has been all about, discovering their world here—and part of it being reacting to the U.S. I wouldn't recommend attending the game as your native country supporter, maybe undercover as the other team, or neutralized. Standing loud and proud in a World Cup game where you're the minority will never end well.
Thanks to Alyssa for sharing her once-in-a-lifetime experience (and pictures from Mexico City)!