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World Cup: Mex-i-co, Mex-i-co, Mex-i-co!

Mexico's 22-year-old player Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández.

Above: Mexico's 22-year-old player Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that the best places to watch World Cup matches in America’s Finest City are The Shakespeare and the Princess. They both promise a great time, but having lived in London the last three years, I’ve had enough of soggy chips and dark beer. Besides, we declared independence from Britain long ago: I wanted a soccer experience that reflected our modern nation, so I headed south instead.

Imperial Beach’s Fiesta Hall was my destination (oh so early Friday morning – doors opened at 6AM) to watch the World Cup opener between Mexico and host country South Africa. Do I even need to say who the patrons at the Fiesta Hall were supporting? Let’s just say that when you pull up to park, you’re addressed in Spanish: assumptions are made, and it's best not to challenge them. (But you weren't supporting South Africa anyway, were you?)

The hall – normally a site for weddings and quinciñeras – was festooned with red, white, and green banners. Strobe lights were flashing and the bassline to “we will rock you” was bumping the floorboards. Multiple giant screens ensured that no matter where you were seated, you could see the action. With noisemakers and trumpets for sale, the din in the hall almost matched the ominous, stirring, pulse-quickening roar of the noise in the distant, South African stadium. (Much of the screaming, it should be noted, came from young women for any on-screen appearance of the 22-year-old Javier “El Chicharito” Hernández.) It didn't take long for proper chanting to start: "Mex-i-co! Mex-i-co!" its ebbs and flows tracking the ball's distance from it's intensely desired goal.

Dark beer and chips were satisfyingly replaced by chilaquiles, nachos, and an array of pastries (though you could definitely have some Corona if you wanted, despite the early hour.)

At halftime, there was a contest for the most committed fan. Competition was fierce between, among others, a man wearing the Mexican flag and one who had made an elaborate scoreboard which had Mexico winning “3 -1.” Nothing less was acceptable, he told the energized crowd of young men, old ladies, and every age in between.

Alas, the final score was 1-1. A solid outcome, though, which will hopefully keep Mexico in the game – and the early morning party going – for the next few weeks.

Event details are here. France vs. Mexico is on the 17th at 11:30AM; Mexico vs. Uruguay is on the 22nd at 7:00AM (doors open at 6:00AM).

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