Mexico National vs. Iceland
Wednesday, March 24, 8:00PM | Cost: $30 – $125
Bank of America Stadium | 800 S. Mint St, Charlotte, NC
Click Here For Ticket Info
Mexican Team Plays in Charlotte; 70,000 Expected
By Franco Ordoñez (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Uriel Castro of south Charlotte said it’s been his lifelong dream to watch the Mexican national soccer team play. It’s hasn’t been a long dream. Uriel is just 9 but sounds like a veteran fan, listing the players and their talents. “I want to see my team play,” he said. “I want to learn from them because one day I want to be one of them.”
Uriel gets his chance tonight when the Mexican national team plays an exhibition match against Iceland at Bank of America Stadium. The Charlotte game, expected to attract about 70,000, comes as Mexico begins to tap into its Latino fan base in nontraditional U.S. soccer markets. It’s also a demonstration of the growth and economic impact of the local Latino community.
In fact, more people will attend the Charlotte game than when Mexico played Venezuela in Atlanta in 2009 and when it played China in Seattle in 2008. “We’ve been looking into markets that might not be on the top of everyone’s mind, as far as possibly being underserved as successful places for soccer,” said Will Wilson, executive vice president of Soccer United Marketing, which represents the Mexican team. “We thought Charlotte might work. It looks like it’s meeting expectations.”
The Charlotte exhibition is one of six warm-up games for the Mexican team before it heads to South Africa for the World Cup in June.
Uriel’s mom, Cristina Zavaleta, 37, said all 10 members of her family have tickets, as do most of their Mexican friends in Charlotte. Many are taking off work, planning parties. Thousands of Latino fans are expected at an afternoon pep rally outside the stadium. “It’s kind of a holiday for us,” Zavaleta says.
The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority says downtown hotels are filling up. Jorge Medina, co-host of “La Voz de Charlotte” on Radio Formula (1310-AM), said Mexicans are excited about seeing their national team and celebrating their culture. For a moment, they can forget about some of the problems affecting their community, whether it’s immigration or jobs.
Adding to his luck, Uriel spent Tuesday afternoon with one former Mexican superstar, Luis “El Matador” Hernandez. Sponsored by Home Depot, Hernandez gave a soccer clinic for Uriel and 29 other fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Collinswood Language Academy. Uriel scored two goals during a short scrimmage.
Hernandez taught the boys and girls some of the most important skills, including the art of screaming, “Goaaalll.”