SAN JOSE -- In case anyone had doubts Saturday at Spartan Stadium, the
preponderance of red-and-white striped jerseys made it clear fans came to see
the storied soccer team from Guadalajara affectionately known as Chivas.
Never mind three other teams were on hand for a slice of fubol Mexicano. This was a night dedicated to the New York Yankees of Mexican soccer.
Banner-waving fans started the fiesta early by chanting and singing during the first game of the doubleheader, Cruz Azul's entertaining 3-2 victory over Morelia.
Then the party got going when Chivas entered the stadium serenaded by trumpets and those screeching horns famously remembered from the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Chivas delivered with a spirited 3-1 victory over Pumas UNAM just 13 days before Liga MX opens and these matchups become serious.
But for one night it felt real to American fans. Blink an eye and the sun-baked hills east of downtown transported some to the barren land outside of Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city. A majority of the crowd of 22,389 swooned over each Chivas surge, then exploded when the team scored three quality goals.
Nayeli Camarillo, 11, of San Pablo proudly wore a red Chivas polo shirt while her sister Nancy wore the colors of Cruz Azul -- her parent's favorite team. Nayeli's eyes sparkled as she talked about seeing Chivas live for the first time.
Bernardo Rodriguez, a farm worker from Paso Robles, brought his
love of Chivas with him to California.
"My heart is Chivas," he said, pounding his chest.
The atmosphere was more peaceful than Wednesday in Las Vegas when an exhibition featuring Chivas and chief rival Club America had to be stopped because of fan violence.
Fortunately for authorities Club America, which shares equal billing with Chivas as Mexico's team, won't arrive in San Jose for a few days. America is scheduled to play Puebla FC on Friday night at Spartan Stadium.
The Mexicans embrace the chance to play in front of their fans who have left the homeland. They also want to recruit new supporters, said Agustin Manzo, a Cruz Azul official.
"We're a big team," he said of the Mexico City club. "We want to encourage more people from Europe, America and South America to follow us."
Helping the teams achieve that goal is Rene Villanueva of Latin Entertainment. The Livermore-based company has put on shows featuring Mexican singers for a decade. Two years ago, Villanueva promoted his first soccer match in Northern California.
"It started with a phone call," he said.
After the first one other teams started calling. Villanueva has held games at Candlestick Park, O.co Coliseum, Sacramento and Fresno.
But none of those events resembled the shows at Spartan Stadium with six Mexican teams in San Jose in the span of six days.
"San Jose is a better market for soccer," Villanueva said. "I don't know why."
The demographics certainly don't hurt with established Mexican-American neighborhoods throughout the city.
Villanueva, 42, hopes to move his events to the Earthquakes' new 18,000-seat facility when it opens next year because it will have a grass field, new lockers and other amenities. Earthquakes officials welcome such games whether they are involved or not.
"I never thought about doing this," added Villanueva, who emigrated from Michoacan. "I thought I was going to play soccer, not anything else."
(c)2013 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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