Beneath a painted mural of the Oklahoma City skyline, Oscar Chavez shifts in his chair with nervous energy. His knees bounce beneath the bar top. He waits for the national anthem to begin.
He and the dozens of people that surround him have been waiting for this World Cup match for four years, a chance for revenge against a familiar foe, and the possibility to shock the world with a win.
On a big screen, amid neon signs advertising Tecate, Corona and Pacifico beers, Chavez watches as players line up. The music begins.
“Mexicanos, al grito de guerra,” “Mexicans, at the cry of war ...”
While a large number of Oklahoma City soccer fans poured into Bricktown and crammed into local watering holes Monday to watch the U.S. National Team’s 2-1 win over Ghana, another segment of the city bided their time until Tuesday afternoon, waiting for the Mexico versus Brazil match and a chance to cheer on their home countries as they competed in the world’s premier soccer tournament.
At Medio Tiempo Sports Cantina and Grill at 2035 S Meridian, more than 100 people dressed in green and red Mexico jerseys and a handful wearing the bright yellow jerseys of Brazil filled the room, screaming their team’s chants and expressing a seemingly universal hate for soccer referees.
“I was raised watching Mexico futbol,” Chavez said over the roar of the crowd. “There is a huge part of Oklahoma City that cheers for Mexico. It’s just part of who we are and where we came from.”
Popularity of soccer
Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in Oklahoma and Oklahoma County now is home to more than 108,000 people with origins based in Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center.
That Hispanic growth has coincided with a boom in the popularity of soccer in Oklahoma City that some enthusiasts say has reached an all-time high. Crowds have packed games for the Oklahoma City Energy FC professional soccer team in its first year of play, prompting talk of a downtown soccer stadium. In Bricktown on Monday, more than a thousand people stood in the blazing heat to watch an outdoor broadcast of the USA-Ghana game.
Chavez, 25, said he’d hoped to be in Brazil to watch Mexico play in person, but couldn’t get time off from his job as a car salesman. He said he still identifies himself as a Mexico team supporter despite having been born and raised in the U.S.
Outside of Medio Tiempo on Tuesday, kids kicked soccer balls into a giant inflatable goal and met Energy players Adda Djeziri and Samir Badr.