20 June 2006

Businesses cash in on World Cup


Story by : DAVID AGREN

Beer flowed early last Sunday morning as Tapatios packed Guadalajara’s restaurants and bars to watch Mexico’s opening World Cup match, which El Tri (as the national team is known) dutifully won, thumping Iran 3-1. The victory continued Mexico’s tradition of starting strong in the tournament – although its teams usually fade and ultimately flame out in the round of 16.

Mexico played tentatively in the first half against Iran, but put aside off-field distractions to pull off the win. (Protestors dogged the Iranian team, though; the country’s controversial president stayed home, but mused about attending the World Cup.) Mexico goalie and Guadalajara native Oswaldo Sanchez, whose father passed away late last week, suited up and stole an almost certain goal from Iran early on. Chivas striker Omar Bravo scored Mexico’s first two goals, the second off of a pass from Antonio Naelson, aka Zinha. Naelson, a Brazilian-born midfielder, headed home the insurance marker late in the second half.

Coach Roberto La Volpe, who caught flack from World Cup organizers for smoking on the sidelines, deftly tweaked his roster in the second half, making substitutions that paid handsome dividends. His oft-derided decision to include two foreign-born players instead of temperamental star Cuauhtemoc Blanco proved genius.

While Mexico thrived in its opener, the United States stumbled, losing 3-0 to the Czech Republic. England scraped by Paraguay 1-0 and later toppled Trinidad and Tobago 2-0, but only after scoring twice in the game’s waning moments. (A distiller promised each Trinidad and Tobago player a barrel of rum if they upset England.)

Along with the national team, many Guadalajara businesses and national and local political candidates also boosted their fortunes last Sunday. Both of Mexico’s television networks drew mammoth audiences; more than three times as many people tuned in for the game than the last presidential debate. North of the border, more fans watched the Mexico match – in either English or Spanish – than the NBA finals.

Establishments showing the game saw sizeable crowds; many places offered breakfast and drink specials. German suds proved especially popular.

“We’re selling a lot of German beer this month due to the World Cup,” said Alejandro Orozco, business manager at Cerveceria Minerva, a Zapopan brewery that recently began distributing foreign beers.

Perhaps to avoid losing business, many of Guadalajara’s ubiquitous taco stands installed television sets – complete with rabbit ears – although reception was a bit fuzzy at some locations.

“If you don’t have a television, the customers will go somewhere else,” said Cesar Diaz, owner of Happy Fish on Avenida Tepeyac.

After the final whistle blew, fans armed with flags and horns and decked out in green shirts flooded the area surrounding the Glorieta Minerva, where squads of riot police kept a close eye on the festivities. Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) volunteers, wearing faux Mexico jerseys that read, “Zamora 06” across the back, worked the crowd. An especially rowdy group, hoisting a giant flag, circled the monument countless times.

Vendors, peddling giant sombreros and flags of all sizes, reported brisk sales in the area.

“Today is far better for sales than Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day celebrations),” said Abel Hernandez, a vendor who parked his cart at the corner of Avenida Mexico and Golfo de Cortes.

“It’s like a tradition,” he added. “You buy a flag and go wave it at the Minerva.”
Herandez predicted Mexico would reach the quarterfinals – one stage beyond where El Tri exited in each of the past three World Cups – which would ensure a worthwhile haul for his small business. An unexpected loss, though, could jeopardize profitability.

“If Mexico doesn’t win, we’ll still sell some things, but not nearly as much,” he explained.

Mexico next plays Angola on Friday at 2 p.m. before tackling Portugal on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

From the Guadalajara Reporter

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