Mexico left Qatar 2022 very quickly. More than usual even for its parameters. Gerardo Martino’s team sealed a disappointing performance by being eliminated from the World Cup just in the group stage, thus breaking a streak of seven World Cups in a row, surpassing the first round — now that record belongs only to Brazil. But there is an aspect in which Mexico can be considered a winner and, precisely, it is the same where there was so much fear.
The restrictions in this World Cup augured bad times for the national fans, who have a long history of bad times in World Cups: there is practically not a single one in which they have not done something illegal. In fact, Qatar 2022 began with the news that a Mexican fan had smuggled alcohol into the country. And, in the run-up to the match against Argentina, there were physical altercations between fans of both teams. But, against all kinds of forecasts, the balance has been white. No Mexican was arrested during the World Cup and that is the biggest win this month. Something had to be rescued.
This was explained by Alfonso Zegbe, executive director of Strategy and Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Contrary to what was thought that in Doha I was not going to see alcohol, yes there was, very expensive, and some people overindulged in alcohol, there were falls, there were brawls, but fortunately nothing happened. The Mexican government, the consular protection people, all of us who work at the Qatar 2022 Mexico Center were always there to help the Mexican fans, to avoid misunderstandings, there were cultural barriers and they were resolved. We are leaving with a white balance, we have no one left, there is no emblematic case in Qatar,” said the official in statements collected by ESPN.
Although Mexico did not reciprocate its people on the field, it is a fact that the cheering of the fans was felt beyond the poor soccer performance. In numbers, it is clear that the Aztec fans will always rank among the best in the world. “It was one of the biggest fans, the biggest fans were the Qatari. In some very precise events that of Saudi Arabia, but the biggest fans in the entire event were from Mexico, especially counting those who arrived from national territory and in the United States, where the highest percentage of the fans ended up being Mexican, Zegbe explained.
In past World Cups, the fans of Mexico were the note for various embarrassing reasons: from turning off the Eternal Flame in France 98, activating the emergency alarm on the bullet train in Japan —and paying a fine for that—, the fan who fell asleep in a conditioned bunker and, after screaming in despair, he was rescued by a German soldier who immediately identified him: “You are Mexican,” he told him. Another episode occurred in South Africa 2010, when a fan of El Tri decided that it was a good idea to “Mexicanize” a statue of Nelson Mandela. They took him to jail and he missed two games for Mexico in that World Cup: against France and Uruguay. In Brazil 2014, a group of Mexicans harassed a Brazilian citizen and a fan jumped off a cruise while drunk and lost his life.
There is no doubt that the Mexicans have left a not-so-well-remembered mark in various World Cups. But at least on this occasion there was a white balance. Yes, there was no shortage of fights and “mischief”, but nothing that warranted the reaction of the Qatari security forces. For the anecdotary, there will also be jokes about Aztec fans posing as local inhabitants to play pranks on some reporters who were covering the event. At least in something more penalties were avoided, since in the field it could not be.