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Into the Smog

August 11, 2009

0-22-1. Twenty two losses and a single solitary tie. That is the infamous record of the U.S. National Team at Azteca. Clearly the U.S. has had problems south of the border. They are not alone. Mexico has only lost once since the stadium opened in 1966.

Azteca on a Clear Day

Visiting teams have struggled with the thin air; the stadium sits 7000 feet above sea level. Teams also must worry about the smog. Mexico City is a bowl that keeps in the air pollution. A thick haze that is nearly impossible to imagine lays heavy over the stadium.

It reminds me of something I read on the fascinating More Than Mind Games blog about the prevalence of smoke in early English soccer. The pictures showing row after row of smoke stacks billowing thick black coal smoke are even more foreign than that of Mexico City to a modern day fan like myself. It’s a link, even so tenuous to maybe not even being there, to a game with a working class, industrial past.

I don’t know if the U.S. will break through on Mexican soil or how the team will play in the adverse conditions of Azteca there are plenty of preview. As I watch the game tomorrow, I will think back the images of smoke laying low around the pitch in turn of the century England and marvel at both how much has and hasn’t changed in a hundred years.

There are multimillion dollar stars and games that can be seen a half a world away, but they still will be decided, even just a little bit, by which team is able to deal with a little bit of smog.

Editors Note: I would love to bring over the pictures from More Than Mind Games, but I don’t feel right about just grabbing someone else’s hard word, plus the entire site is certainly worth checking out.

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