Las Vegas’ Mexico fans welcome all to World Cup bandwagon

Updated June 23, 2018 - 5:44 pm

If it wasn’t for the beam of sunlight coming through the doorway, it’d be hard to tell the nightclub at 2100 Fremont St. was getting ready to host a World Cup watch party Saturday morning.

Amid the darkness, a handful of green Mexico jerseys stood out near the stage. Some had been there all night dancing to the tunes of the live band. Others woke up early to make sure their group got a table before Mexico faced South Korea at 8 a.m. in Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

The popular nightspot among Latinos known as Club 2100 closes daily at 6 a.m., but the establishment decided to extend its hours for Mexico’s World Cup matches.

The ones that set their alarms early could have hit the snooze button. Five minute before the whistle blew, the club was half empty and the giant pot of free menudo was almost full.

Fans of El Tri are one of the most passionate in soccer, but they run on Mexican time, as the old saying goes. But you can always count on them to eventually show up, and they did as Club 2100 was at capacity 10 minutes into the match.

The Mexican national team also showed up in Russia with a strong performance against South Korea in a 2-1 victory to remain atop the Group F standings. Mexico can win the group Wednesday with a victory or tie against Sweden.

Mexico went into the World Cup with a lot of scrutiny and doubt. Now at 2-0, including a major upset over Germany to open the tournament, Mexico looks poised to break its second-round curse.

Mexico has advanced to the knockout stage in the past six World Cups but each time failed to get out of the Round of 16.

“This team can get to the final because it has companionship,” said Jose Aztorga, 52, who went straight to the nightclub after his graveyard shift on the Strip. “At the level they’ve been playing, I believe they’ll get out of the second round.”

It’s hard to argue with Aztorga, especially with Mexico’s stars leaving their mark on the pitch.

El Tri’s most known players, Carlos Vela and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, scored Mexico’s two goals, and rising star Hirving “Chucky” Lozano recorded the assist on the second goal. Lozano had the winning goal against Germany.

Back in Las Vegas, fans chanted “Chicharito” and “Chucky” to show approval of their performances.

Once the final whistle blew, the menudo pot was empty, the Modelos kept coming and the live banda hit the stage to continue the party. The waitresses didn’t seem to mind the extra hours.

“We’re not leaving, and that’s OK as long as Mexico wins,” one waitress said.

Every jersey was either green or white in support of Mexico, but one patron had a split jersey representing Mexico and the United States.

Remember the Stars and Stripes? The United States missed the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Former U.S. captain Landon Donovan has encouraged Americans to root for their neighbors down south with a Wells Fargo commercial. Many U.S. soccer fans and former players aren’t happy with Donovan’s campaign.

With Mexico’s early World Cup success, the bandwagon could start getting full, and Maria Garcia encourages U.S. fans to hop on.

“The United States is my home and my roots are in Mexico, why can’t we cheer for both?” said Garcia, who left Michoacan, Mexico, more than two decades ago. “I’d root for the United States if they got in and Mexico missed the World Cup. They’ll be second in my heart, but I’d wish them well, just not against Mexico.”

Gil Revolorio, 25, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, sees it as geographical support. His father was born in Guatemala and supports the two North American rivals.

“My father calls it Latinos Unidos (united),” Revolorio said. “I see it more from a CONCACAF standpoint. They always underestimate that group. We gotta prove we can compete with Europe and South America.”

On a day with plenty of tension and divide in the city because of President Donald Trump’s visit, soccer fans inside the nightclub were preaching unity.

“There’s a lot going on,” Aztorga said. “When the soccer game is on, it’s like you forget about all of it. It’s an escape for a few hours.”

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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