Mexico World Cup fans cheer draw
CHICAGO -- An off-duty Chicago Police officer walked into V Live, a Logan Square neighborhood club, shortly after the second half began in Friday's Mexico-South Africa World Cup game.
South Africa had scored just minutes before, and the 800-plus Mexico fans who packed the club fell nearly silent. No one was blowing their horn. The smiles and laughter that had been present for the game's first 45 minutes had vanished. Fans sipped beer and stared in disbelief at televisions throughout the club.
But as Mexico began creating chances, the crowd slowly returned to life. Their eyes began reflecting optimism. One person blew a horn, then another, then another. The fans were back into it.
The momentum was building. The Chicago cop felt it, too. He turned to his friend and wondered aloud, "I wonder what happens if they score a goal?"
Less than a minute later, he got his answer.
The sight of Rafael Marquez putting the ball into the back of South Africa's net in the 79th minute ignited a crowd that had been waiting to explode. Over 800 people had either skipped work, forced themselves to stay up after finishing a night shift or got up early so they could party, and after nearly two hours of waiting for a reason to celebrate, Marquez scored.
Beer was flung through the air. People leaped in joy. Loud celebratory music played over the speakers. People hugged. Lights flashed from the ceiling. People threw their arms up in excitement. More beer was splashed into the air as Mexico played South Africa to a 1-1 draw.
"It was chaos," said 29-year-old Jorge Soria, who wore a Chicago Cubs' Geovany Soto jersey.
His friend Freddy Alvarez, 30, who wore a Mexico soccer jersey, echoed the feeling.
It was a moment that Alex Vazquez, 27, knew was coming. Even when South Africa scored its goal, Vazquez was sure Mexico would answer. He had faith.
When Mexico rewarded that faith, he enjoyed every following moment, even if his clothes needed a washing afterward.
"I had beer all over me," Vazquez said. "It was madness. It was like New Year's."
Some in the crowd at V Live were born in Mexico. Some had parents and grandparents who were from Mexico. Some were born in Chicago, then moved to Mexico and now were back in Chicago. Some simply were soccer fans.
On The Scene
Fans of Mexico celebrated the team's 1-1 draw in its World Cup opener. Check out the images that accompany the story. Photo gallery »
Graham Brennan, 31, is simply a soccer fan. Brennan, a native of Ireland, was invited to the game by a few friends and couldn't pass up the opportunity to kick off the World Cup in such wild fashion.
"This is what you expect from the World Cup," said Brennan, who is a Robert Morris men's soccer assistant coach and a Chicago Fire developmental coach. "Every time I pull out my phone, I can't believe it's 10 o'clock in the morning. The next 40 days are going to be like this.
"I hope people take the time to watch the U.S. games. How many people knew about hockey before the Hawks. Now they're all up in it. When ESPN got the contract for the World Cup, they began putting highlights on their Top 10 plays. It got the game out there. If that's what works, let's do it."
Brothers Adrian Calleros, 37, and Mario Calleros, 48, had a unique perspective of Friday's game. They were born in the United States, moved to Mexico when they were kids and returned to Chicago after five years.
"We really can relate to the culture since we lived there," Mario said. "We're really proud we were born here and proud to be Americans, but we hold our Mexican culture really close."
They, too, couldn't imagine watching the first game of the World Cup anywhere else.
"The World Cup only comes along every four years," Adrian said. "You want to come out and enjoy the camaraderie. It's a good time to come out. Sometimes you enjoy a game at home, but the World Cup you want to be around other fans and celebrate with other fans."
Scott Powers is covering the World Cup locally for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.