The World's Game In The Heart of the Sun Belt

‘Happiness’ abounds for Team Mexico, fans

The Georgia Dome’s soccer debut certainly made Atlanta sports officials happy. The announced attendance of 51,115 also made Soccer United Marketing, which organized the event, very, very happy.

Most of the fans who attended the game, overwhelmingly donning Mexico’s Tricolor of green, white and red were extremely happy as they made their way from all around the metro Atlanta area, Georgia and the Southeast.

Several dozen surrounded the Mexico team bus outside the Omni hotel, cheering, snapping photos and incessantly blowing those annoying vuvuzela horns.

(And for those of you complaining about hearing such a racket on your television during the Confederations Cup, try getting an earful of those blasters inside a domed stadium.)

The Jose Cuervo shooter girls at the Futbol Fiesta before Wednesday's match inside the Georgia Dome. (photo by David Tulis)

The Jose Cuervo shooter girls at the Futbol Fiesta before Wednesday's match inside the Georgia Dome. (photo by David Tulis)

At the pregame Fútbol Fiesta, a monument to blatant, overbearing corporate sponsorship, at least a few young couples enjoyed dancing at the Jose Cuervo tent. If that doesn’t make you happy, what will?

And the Mexican national team, testing some young talent with a colossal summer schedule awaiting, might have been the happiest of all after a 4-0 throttling of Venezuela.

“I expected less people, but they deserved the win,” said Mexico striker Carlos Vela, who scored the first goal of the game. “It was great bringing happiness to them.”

Wednesday’s extravaganza at the Dome went off without a hitch — unless you were among the rare souls sporting Venezuela’s burgundy colors. The specially imported real grass was smooth and playable, especially for the young, dashing Mexican club struggling to gain top playing form. The crowd was well-behaved and organized, basking in the communal experience of celebrating Mexican nationality and heritage. The post-game traffic was a nightmare, but expected.

The immediate verdict — Atlanta is now on the map as a spectator soccer destination — is hard to counter. An untapped market in a part of the world that big-time soccer spectacle has long bypassed figures to get increased consideration for future events.

Mexico's Giovano dos Santos (17) scored twice at the Georgia Dome. (photo by David Tulis)

Mexico's Giovano dos Santos (left) scored twice against Venezuela as the man of the first soccer match at the Georgia Dome. (photo by David Tulis)

“You’ll see more of this on a regular basis,” said Atlanta Sports Council president Gary Stokan. “This has a good vibe to it. There’s a pent-up demand for this. I’ve got to give SUM and MLS credit for looking at the future of the [Mexican-American] demographic.”

Even more ecstatic are members of the Latino community who have long awaited a game like this to come to the city.

“I’ve been here 25 years and this is the biggest event for Spanish-speaking people that I’ve ever seen,” said Will Ramirez, director of Estadio Sports, an Atlanta Spanish-language sports media outlet that covers primarily soccer, including many of the metro areas dozens of Hispanic soccer leagues. “They are very happy because this is the first time there has been something like this in this city.”

But Ramirez said that while the Mexican bonanza is nice, next month’s friendly between Club América, and AC Milan, the two most popular club teams in Mexico and Italy, respectively, could draw a more diverse crowd. And a bigger one.

Even the youngest Mexico fans made no doubt of their loyalties. (photo by David Tulis)

Even the youngest Mexico fans made no doubt of their loyalties. (photo by David Tulis)

“For as many people as there were here tonight,” he said Wednesday, “there will be more then. You will have Mexican and Latino fans. You will have European and African fans.”

Although AC Milan no longer has Brazilian star Kaká, sold earlier this summer to Real Madrid, it still has a star-studded roster that includes Ronaldinho and stars of Italy’s 2006 World Cup championship team.

The Rossoneri, as AC Milan are called, may not field those all of those players in Atlanta, since the match is during a preseason tour of the United States.

So it might be hard to match the happiness factor that erupted around town this week.

“This is my first trip to Atlanta,” Mexico coach Javier Aguirre said. “And I leave very happy.”

Here are some extensive video highlights of the match from Telemundo, where famed announcer Andrés Cantor also was happy calling mucho goles:

2 comments

1 johnny { 06.28.09 at 11:21 am }

i was in this exciting match and i would thought was that about all 50,000 ppl their were mexicans i know that there was not that much venezuelanos their. if the main team of mexico came i know for sure that more fans would have attended my question still is that will mexico come again to atlanta im from north part of alabama and i was quit pleased with all the excitment of the game

2 Atlanta gears for another soccer showcase | Atlanta Soccer News { 07.21.09 at 11:20 pm }

[...] the heels of last month’s Dome friendly between Mexico and Venezuela that drew more than 50,000 spectators, this game is being seen by promoters and soccer aficionadoes [...]

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