Will American Football Be Able To “Tackle” Soccer In Mexico?

A sculptural fitness instructor makes a 40-yard run on a Mexico City football field. A muscular graphic designer lifts a heavy bar. A medical student takes flight and shows his vertical jump.

Another 70, including lawyers, engineers and salesmen, were present on a bright and fresh Saturday morning for a tryout, which in this case was not for a soccer team.

All of them are looking for a place in the fledgling Liga de Football Americano Profesional – Professional American Football League – (LFA) of Mexico.

Panting, after lifting a 225 lb bar 20 time, Julio César Luján, a 32-year-old graphic designer, hopes to win a linebacker position in one of the six teams in the Mexican league.

‘I do not really like soccer at all,’ says Luján, with bulging biceps protruding from his sleeveless shirt.

The NFL regular season returns to Mexico on Monday night, and the rise of the LFA is another sign of a growing passion for sport in this country where soccer is king.

The National Football League estimates that it has 25 million fans in Mexico, the highest figure outside the United States.

More than 103,000 people crowded into the Azteca Stadium to see the dinalArizona Cars defeat the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, the first and last time the NFL played a regular season game in Mexico City.

The 76,000 tickets from the newly renovated Estadio Azteca for Monday’s clash between the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Texans were sold out in an hour.

“The league has seen this as a propitious terrain to grow and expand its international reach,” Arturo Olivé, director of the NFL office in Mexico, told AFP.

Two more games are planned for 2017 and 2018 in Mexico City as part of the NFL international circuit along with London.

If Monday’s game is successful, there could be more matches in Mexico, but the Latin American country is “far from having a franchise,” Olivé said.

Crowds fill up bars to watch NFL games. The Mexican university games are now televised. Men and women compete in flag American football tournaments.

About 2.5 million children play ‘tochito’ in an NFL program in Mexican schools and eight years ago had 100,000 enrollees.

Childhood dream

Although it is difficult for Mexicans to be recruited into the NFL, they may aspire to receive a salary for playing in the LFA, which begins its second season in February.

The LFA was founded by Fox Sports Channel NFL commentator Juan Carlos Vazquez, who recalls feeling ‘very sad’ when another Mexican league disappeared in the 1990s.

“Since then I had the idea that when I grew up I would have a professional league,” he added.

The LFA in this year’s inaugural season featured four teams from overcrowded Mexico City with an average of 2,000 spectators per game.

The Mexican league is expanding a year earlier than expected; The northern cities of Saltillo and Monterrey will join in 2017.

The failure of the league in the 1990s was due to the lack of television coverage, sponsorships and experience, Vazquez said.

The LFA already has 14 sponsors and has won television coverage, including weekly game summaries that will be broadcast on Televisa, the country’s largest network.

Still in diapers

Jose Antonio Sandoval, LFA’s sports manager, acknowledged that the league still has a long way to go before reaching the NFL.

‘In the United States, the sport is a profession, and so they see it. We are in diapers, “said Sandoval.

The players in the LFA had a salary of around 75 dollars per game last season, with 13 matches.

Leonel Mendoza, 25, a cornerback who played for the LFA’s Mexico City Eagles last season, said his coach advised him to concentrate on his studies.

“Fortunately (the league) has given us the opportunity to many who are studying, many who are working to prove us in the professional field in football, however my goal in life is to be a doctor,” he said after hitting the post at A vertical jump during the tests.

When Eumir Camacho tried to play in the NFL Europe, he was told that he was four centimeters too short to be a linebacker.

“The moment we talked about a professional league, it was a bit exciting,” said Camacho, who played for the Raptors of the State of Mexico last season.

Translated from the original article in Tackleo.com