With God on our side
In southern Mexico, besides gathering to watch the games, organizing the barbeque and putting on the team's jersey, support of 'El Tri' makes it all the way to the church.
"I am all set. I already scheduled my vacation for the first week of the World Cup to see all the games of the Mexican league and gather with friends," said Carlos Rojas, a Mexican trainer for the Galaxy soccer team in South Philly.
In the Mexican league his official team is the Cruz Azul. "Although most of my players are 'Americanistas' (fans of the opposing team), I'm a 'blue' fan to the death."
In southern Mexico, besides gathering to watch the games, organizing the barbeque and putting on the team's jersey, support of 'El Tri' makes it all the way to the church — where the green, white and red uniform clothes the Baby Jesus, in hopes that the national team will receive the blessing that will bring it to victory during the World Cup.
For decades hundreds of faithful Catholics have visited a church in Tacuba, northwest of Mexico City, to honor the Holy Child of Miracles and pray for divine intervention for the Mexican national team.
"I've been a fan since I was born ... since always. To me it is the same thing, I am a Catholic and soccer is a religion too, because you experience it, just like Mass, every Sunday. I had the chance to see the tradition of 'el Niño futbolero' in Mexico. The Mexican community tends to be very devout, mainly Catholics place a lot of faith in the saints, the Virgin and so some will put the team's jersey on (Jesus) so the team has good luck," Rojas said.
For Antonio Espinoza, curator of the exhibition 'Soccer: In the net of art', currently at the Brazil-Mexico Cultural Center, in Mexico City, soccer is a game informed by both mythology and religion, where stadiums become temples and the players saints.
"Soccer is a survivor of our tribal past, a sport that gives way to the most elemental human forces. The most popular sport simulates a return to barbarism, to our life in caves, to a primitive time when we were all equal but we were killing each other mercilessly. That's how one can explain the grand luck this 'game of kicks' has had in the world of art and literature," Espinoza said.
Another Mexican resident in Bensalem, and also a faithful soccer player, is Javier Santamaría. Originally from the state of Tlaxcala, Santamaría finds the fervor of soccer on home altars and in churches amusing. "As they say 'to God what is God's.' People are so dedicated to their passion that they'll cry, they'll pray and petition Masses if the team is playing. It's a little extreme ... but I respect everyone's beliefs."
However, he agrees that soccer in Mexico is part of everyday life and as Mexican as mole.
"In Mexico people find it much easier to play soccer than any other sport, it is the most accessible sport. You just need to get together with your classmates and start the 'cascarita' (game)," Santamaría said.
For Rojas, the fervor for 'el fut' is not something purely Mexican, it's a sport that achieves different levels of fanatism in different parts of the world because it is something everybody can play.
"It doesn't matter what country you come from, only that you have faith in something or someone, and that you know that, yes, it can be accomplished, it is possible," Rojas said.