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¡XOOOOOOL!

The fútbol craze surges in Tijuana, with the Xoloitzcuintles’ rise to the Mexican pro league.

“Choh-Loh-Eats-Queen-Tlays” 

That’s a decent hack at the tangled name of the soccer club responsible for sparking a hometown pride revival in the border city. Named after an ancient breed of hairless dog, in May the Xoloitzcuintles won their way into the Primera Division, the crema de la crema of Mexico’s football realm. While the team spent its inaugural season in the majors doing whatever necessary to keep from tripping into last place, including firing its head coach, filling the 33,000-capacity Estadio Caliente for nearly every home game were unfazed Xolos lovers from both sides of the frontier.

The action in the stands rivals that of the field. Diehard fans flaunt heavy body paint, lucha libre masks and cowboy hats bearing the Xolos seal, and food vendors deal quintessential norteña stadium fare: regionally famous tostilocos (Tostitos tossed with apple and cucumber chunks, peanuts, chamoy candy, and slivers of pig lard), carne seca drenched in hot sauce, and cervezas the size of Big Gulps rimmed with chile.

The tradition of tailgating knows no borders. Meaty fumes from carne asadas fill the outskirts of the grounds before and after home games, while sexed-up señoritas strut about in corporate-themed go-go attire like walking billboards. 

Gated off below the scoreboard are a few thousand porra, Mexico’s brand of football hooligans. The Tijuana clan formally calls itself “La Masakr3,” chanting crassly above the tune of incessant brass and drums and amid a storm of red and black flags. The sky rains stale beer whenever a Xolo scores, and anyone’s welcome to join in the desmadre, as long as they’re in on the color scheme and willing to jump and scream the entire 90 minutes. ¡XOOOOOOL!

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