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Mexico's making a mistake hosting Honduras at the Estadio Azteca

The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) may be creating problems for themselves by hosting a game against Honduras in the Estadio Azteca.

Estadio Azteca. Mexico vs Canada
Rafael Hernandez

The Mexico national team may have qualified for the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF but it's not exactly at a high point. The last official game for the Senior National team was an historic 7-0 loss to Chile in the quarterfinal game of Copa America. It was the worst defeat Mexico has ever had in a Copa America and against a team that had been historically ranked beneath them. Not only did the win confirm that Chile has surpassed them, but it was in what many people thought was the best opportunity to ever win a Copa America (in the US with home field advantage and with most players in their squad playing in Europe). To make matters worse the U23 team failed to defend their Olympic gold by crashing out in the group stages of Rio 2016. The very supportive but also very demanding Mexican public is extremely disappointed on the recent results of the national team. This will be the atmosphere when Mexico host Honduras on September 6 at the Estadio Azteca, which could be a mistake that could complicate an already harsh situation.

When Mexico beat Canada 2-0 on March 29, they had qualified with two games to spare to the final round of qualifiers in CONCACAF. This meant that the final two games against El Salvador in San Salvador and against Honduras in Mexico are meaningless to the national team. This situation made it perfect for the idea that the centralized Mexican national team could maybe go to other cities in Mexico as it had done in the past. In 2012 for example, Mexico had been in a similar situation and had qualified with two games to spare after beating Costa Rica 1-0 at the Azteca. This meant that the El Salvador return game was meaningless and it was moved to Torreon where it had good attendance.

While the Azteca has been regarded as the home for the National team, the fact they play every qualifier game has sometimes had a "burning out" effect in Mexico City. It also has the opposite effect on the rest of the country as the national team rarely plays outside Mexico City when playing in Mexico, as the majority of the friendlies are played in the United States. This would have been a perfect opportunity, especially since the atmosphere of the 7-0 is bound to increase the "burn out" effect with fans. To make matters worse, the ticket prices for national team games are expensive and the FMF doesn't look like they decided to lower them for a this game, a meaningless game against a team that isn't particularly liked in Mexico.

The other big shadow looming over this game (and every Mexico game) has to be the lingering ban over the "Grito" chant. The chant has been declared homophobic by FIFA and has resulted in several fines for Mexico and the possibility of a ban for Azteca is very present. While FIFA's calls for a stop to it in the 2014 world cup was met by criticism from the FMF, it came as a surprise when it was done again in the first World cup qualifier against El Salvador along with a fine. Along with the fines came a total change of tune by the FMF, who didn't criticize FIFA and started a campaign against the chant, meaning that they saw the situation as inevitable. FIFA wasn't going to budge and Mexico needed to comply. Unfortunately, the Mexican crowd didn't see the situation the same way, and for the Canada game, they chanted it louder, which led to another fine and the ever present possibility that the Azteca will get a ban next time they do so. Also, FIFA just recently handed Chile a ban for their stadium after a similar situation, which leads to precedent being set. The fact that the Azteca might get a ban for the hex because of a meaningless game against Honduras, makes the situation to play this game there even worse.

The Mexico vs. Honduras game is going to be a key game for Honduras (who are tied with Canada for the final ticket for the Hex in the group). But it really didn't have to be for Mexico. Playing it at the Azteca now gives it extraordinary weight. Mexico will have to bring their A game against a potential hostile home crowd that is hurt by their performance against Chile. It will also have the large shadow of the home crowd behavior in relation to the Grito, that has a high probability to lead to a ban for the stadium in the Hex (where Mexico will open with two away games). All this situation will have been avoided by moving the game outside Mexico City. Moving it would have meant an appreciative crowd that isn't used to seeing Mexico games and had they done the chant, it would only lead to a ban to that particular stadium. But it seems the FMF can't stop tripping over themselves and making their situation worst.