Goooooooal! Soccer, Tradition, & the Real Cancun

It’s no secret that vacations are the bee’s knees. The sun, the surf, the sand. The escape from the constant barrage of emails and the endless game of “Beat the Clock.” Decompress, recharge, unplug, let loose – whatever you like to call it, that feeling is what makes vacations so vital to our continued sanity.

But, while we all love relaxing by the pool, reading a good book (kids, ask your parents what those were), there is always the question of what to do when the sun goes down. Some people like to get their swerve on and dance ’til sunup. Others like to eat seven course meals at the finest restaurants. Those are fine ways to enjoy an evening, but even the young and the rich can’t do that every night. Surely there is an alternative to pay-per-view.

Well, how about a little local flavor? On a recent trip to Cancun, my wife and I decided to forego the bar-hopping and the souvenir stands for a night, and try to find something that celebrated Mexican culture. We were drawn, moth-like, to the bright lights of Estadio Andrés Quintana Roo for a fútbol match between the hometown Atlante and the visiting Estudiantes Tecos of Zapopan.

The first thing I noticed, upon walking through the gates, was the buzz of a thousand vuvuzelas echoing throughout the complex. Before I could say, “Where did all those horns come from?,” two impossibly-beautiful women approached and handed me one, along with a pair of thundersticks.

The second thing I noticed was a large inflatable target, where a line of people thirty deep were waiting for a shot at winning some sort of prize. As I watched a few people miss badly, I thought to myself, “I could do that.” My wife then correctly pointed out that no, actually, I could not, thus saving me much public humiliation and, most likely, bodily injury.

The game itself was very exciting; the home team won 2-1 in extra time, and we found ourselves yelling just as passionately as the crowd. But the best part, for me, was the food. On the way to our seats, we had passed a Domino’s Pizza stand. “Ugh,” I thought, “Et tu, Atlante?” It turns out my fears were unfounded; there were several authentic snacks to sample. And sample we did. Grilled arrachera tacos with fresh salsa, chicharrones with extra hot sauce, and some sort of deep-fried ball filled with whole beans. Washed down with a couple of cheladas (tip: after the first one, just keep refilling with regular Coronas for about half the price), and you have all the makings of a fun, exciting, and filling night.

So, the next time you find yourself down Mexico way, seek out the local fútbol club and see if there is a home game while you are in town. It doesn’t even matter if you are a sports fan or not. Trust me, when you look back on a lifetime of vacations, this is an experience that will stick with you and always make you smile.

¡Vamos Atlante!

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