When Pasion Rayada, a massive group of Monterrey soccer fans, first suggested that I join them for an impromptu soccer lesson this past Saturday afternoon, I was a bit skeptical.
Sure, there was the promise of beer, but Saturdays are meant for lounging, not screaming at the television screen in vain over a poor header during a futbol game. The idea seemed at least a bit testosterone-heavy for a lazy Saturday.
But with a bit of arm-twisting, along with the promise of a borrowed purple Monterrey jersey to fit in with the group, I agreed to join in. Not without a bit of groaning about all the lazying business I was giving up in order to experience their "unique" fan culture, though.
Soccer is soccer, right? And fans are all the same. Well, not in this case.
The members of Pasion Rayada are next-level fans. Their die-hard devotion to their home team is bordering on insane, with members around the globe pulling for Monterrey to win. These fans are hell-bent on showing support, and go about doing so by any means necessary.
Banners have hung from interstate signs in Houston, marking their Monterrey territory. Photos have been snapped in front of the Eiffel Tower, with fans proudly displaying their homemade Pasion Rayada signs.
Oh, and camels have been paraded around in front of La Revolucion Sports Bar on the Eastside.
Yes, you read that right.
In honor of the FIFA Club World Cup, in which Monterrey was positioned against Raja Blanca, a club team native to Morocco, Pasion Rayada brought in a camel to celebrate their team's travel to Morocco.
I met that camel, along with a sports bar full of soccer fans, to take part in the celebration, and I think you should know that it was freakin' awesome. Not only were there camels, but drums, Micheladas, and a bartender who had such a difficult time deciphering what I was saying, he just handed me random drinks.
Don't worry, though. I survived the camel and mystery drinks, and my hesitation about hanging out with a bunch of crazy soccer fans has been replaced with awe. I've come out the other side of my day with Pasion Rayada a new person, and with what I learned during that Michelada-fueled chaos, there is simply no going back.
So, Pasion Rayada. You win this one. I am quite looking forward to next season's games, and the antics that come along with the soccer fan territory. But perhaps next year you'll give me my own jersey. Please?
As proof that I should be made an honorary member of Pasion Rayada, I've compiled a list of five things I learned during our soccer outing. I think you'll be impressed.
5. Camels don't spit nearly as often as is suggested by cartoons or the rumor mill. Turns out that camels don't spit that often at all. I watched that camel pace around the parking lot of La Revolucion, in front of some stray dogs, and around some orange safety cones, and not one time did I see that thing spit. I'm actually quite impressed with the camel's manners.
For what it's worth, the soccer fans were equally as well-mannered, and I would like to say thanks for the sweet Tecates someone handed me while I stared in awe at that giant humped beast. A camel! In a parking lot!
4. Soccer on television isn't nearly as boring as I had previously deemed it to be. Perhaps it was the freaking awesome drum circle that busted out some wicked beats the entire game, including halftime, but man, soccer is exciting in the middle of a sports bar when you're surrounded by crazy fans. Someone even dressed up as some sort of soccer creature, in a full-on costume. I'm not sure how these guys had the stamina to play drums the entire game, but I kind of want to borrow them every time I have to do something boring. It seems like a drum circle can jazz up just about anything.
3. Micheladas should only be purchased from Mexican sports bars on the east side, specifically La Revolucion, especially during a Monterrey game. Confession? I normally hate the bland, factory line Micheladas from just about anywhere in the city. I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, and yes, it's a bit beer-snobby, but I don't like the Americanized version of the Michelada. It's lacking just about everything, including flavor.
But somehow -- somehow -- La Revolucion gets it right. It took me about an hour to order, since I refused to showcase my crappy Spanish-speaking skillz, but it was well worth the wait. I even risked it being made with Clamato, which I'm allergic to, because it was that delicious. So right on, Pasion Rayada. You know where it's at.
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2. No amount of hair gel will ever make you cuter than the kids with the matching jerseys. There were tons of children running around with their Pasion Rayada parents, and they were utterly adorable in their little matching jerseys. They were hanging from poles outside, kicking each others' asses in pool, and generally being rowdy little kids. And they did so by being cuter than any adult human could ever be, even with their runny noses and sticky fingers.
Perhaps we can start an offshoot of Pasion Rayada, just for the kids, in which I get to sugar them all up and give them back to their parents to deal with. But only if they wear their matching jerseys. Oh, and I'm not providing a camel, mainly because I'm not sure where the hell one gets a camel in the city of Houston.
1. Everyone should have a passion that runs as deep as Pasion Rayada's. I'm not sure I like anything -- or anyone, for that matter -- as much as these guys like their team. Say what you will about soccer as a whole, but Pasion Rayada makes me want to really, really like something. It may not be soccer, and it's probably not going to be a sport, but I am determined to like something as much as they like watching that game. Everyone should have something they're passionate about in the manner that these guys are passionate about their team. Everyone.
Would it be weird to start a drum circle, complete with Micheladas, every time I shoe shop?