On Cinco de Mayo, Mexicans celebrated the famous battle of Puebla where Mexico defeated the French army. The invasion would later take over the country until 1867, when President Benito Juarez would once again take control of the country. As Mexicans look towards the city of Puebla, it must be remembered that the Federation of Mexican Football still owe Puebla a Senior National team game. It was more than a decade ago, back in 2007, when Mexico’s senior team last played there. The game had to be abandoned due to rain at halftime, making the game void followed by the federation promising they would bring a game back to Puebla. While the Federation has returned various times with youth teams, it has yet to play a senior team match to make up for that day.
On September 9th of 2007, Mexico played against Panama in Puebla, under coach Hugo Sanchez. Mexico had the intention of playing the game at 2:00 PM local time, when they it was still normal to play games at 12:00 PM. The move ended up being disastrous because although it had been sunny before, a huge downpour of rain began as soon as the game started. Mexico took a 1-0 lead with a Felipe Baloy own goal. The rain seized to pour and the field was a total mess. At halftime, it was clear that the field was not fit to be played on and the game was called off. The Federation promised to return and although it’s been 13 years and many close calls, they haven’t.
Mexico’s closest return came a year later. Now under a new coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, Mexico was set to play the World Cup Qualifying Semifinal Round with three home games. Their final home match against Jamaica was given to Puebla, while they played the first match in Estadio Azteca against Honduras and the match against Canada in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. But things changed when the possibility of Hurricane Ike hitting Jamaica meant that CONCACAF switched the home matches, and thus Mexico would play their home match against Jamaica. Unfortunately, the match was also moved to the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, meaning Puebla would once again miss having a match. This was the closest to a friendly being played in Puebla. After that, Mexico has chosen to go to Puebla only with the youth teams. The most important one has been when Mexico hosted the CONCACAF U20 Championship in Puebla in 2013. Mexico won all its games and they went on to win the tournament, the last World Cup qualifying tournament that Mexico has hosted. Mexico came the closest to a big National Team game when Puebla hosted the final friendly game before Mexico went to the 2016 Olympics against Argentina. The game ended 0-0 and although the Olympics are a big deal, it was still a match between U23 teams.
Thirteen years later, Mexico still hasn’t returned to Puebla. Although Mexico rarely plays in its own country, this isn’t an excuse, especially in comparison to other sites. Queretaro for example, has had Mexico play friendlies in 2011 (against Serbia), 2014 (against Panama) and 2018 (against Chile). Tuxtla Gutierrez, who got their World Cup qualifier against Canada in 2008, has hosted friendlies in 2014 (against Honduras) and 2015 (against Guatemala). Maybe the Federation thinks it made it up with the 2013 U20 Championship but the fact is that if other cities have gotten friendlies, why can’t Puebla get their 2007 makeup game? As we look towards Puebla every 5 de Mayo, we should be reminded they are still owed a game.