Sometimes fandom runs deeper than the threads you throw on when it’s game time. Sometimes a jersey signifies a link to generations that have come before and generations that are yet to discover the joy and pain of sports loyalty.
For countless Mexican-Americans, taking out the vibrant El Tri kit from the closet means more than a couple hours of eager anticipation as they root for the ball to find the back of the net.
It means childhood cookouts, time spent with parents. It means family and pride—familia y orgullo.
“To me, the Mexican National Team means culture, community, and identity,” Pancho Villa’s Army founder and the group's El General, Sergio Tristán, tells En Fuego. “It is a connection to our parents and grandparents. It’s a tradition.”
The tradition welcomed a new colorway on Monday with the adidas launch of the “Rosa Mexicano” edition of the Mexican National Team jersey, a kit that is as vibrant as the fanbase that follows the team.
The jersey has evolved over the century, going from the first iteration as a maroon shirt tied at the top to the iconic green we’ve all come to think of when someone mentions the team.
El Tri references the team’s dedication to the three colors of the Mexican flag—red, white and green flying valiantly as the ball is distributed beautifully down the pitch.
It’s easy to take for granted the significance of not just the colors—which have fluctuated from the widely popular black to the aforementioned green—but the nostalgia that is tied to it.
“The kit represents a sense of pride and excitement,” Gaby Stevenson, a PhD student from UMass Amherst tells En Fuego.
Stevenson is also a member of Pancho Villa’s Army’s Boston batallon (battalion). For the uninitiated, PVA represents one of the most prolific and ardent fanbases in sports.
It began as a way for Tristán to share his love of football and Mexican culture with fellow MNT fans. It’s evolved into a website, social media movement and tailgate community that travels the world and brings the celebration of pre-game frivolity to every fixture.
For someone like Stevenson, El Tri is an inextricable link to something very personal.
“Both my parents are from Mexico and I grew up in El Paso, so while I am from the United States, Mexican culture continues to be a defining part of my life,” Stevenson said.
“Moving to the northeast was a definite culture shock so to me, the Mexican National Team to me is also a way for me to not only celebrate my culture but also helps me to feel like I am still home for those 90 minutes.”
Family is a running theme for fans who often look beyond results on the pitch. Ivan Toribio is a member of PVA Los Angeles, and he echoes the depth of the team’s roots.
“The Mexican National team means family to me,” he said. “Wearing the El Tri kit means pride and culture. As a kid, my parents constantly reminded me of where they came from and why they came to this country. Obviously, at first, I was rather naive to that. I realized the point my parents were trying to get across to me as I got older and appreciated hard work and an honestly living.”
Just like walking by a restaurant and smelling the food can instantly transport you to being a little kid in your grandma’s kitchen, putting on a jersey can send you back to some pretty epic moments.
“I still remember the first World Cup I witnessed back in 1994 as a young nine-year-old boy in Mexico,” PVA Fresno’s Lalo Iniguez recalls.
“Growing up and wanting to be like the great Jorge Campos like all the kids in my barrio. Migrating to the United States as a 10-year-old was life-changing but the only thing that remained from my childhood in Mexico was the love for my national team.”
You talk about iconic, there is perhaps no more beloved footballer than Campos. Tending goal for 13 years and 130 caps meant the mere mention means most of you are already picturing the vibrant colors of his kit between the posts.
The kit has gone through myriad iterations over the decades. Each era has its own stars that further the reach of this team and deepen its ties to the community.
The roster of greats, each player with their own fire and personality, they are a way to celebrate success but also grant a gateway for nostalgia.
The smell of an asada, the sound of ranchera, spotting a fan rocking Mexico’s colors, these things tend to transport you to a place you love to visit. It’s a couch back when your earliest memories were being formed.
“La Selección isn’t just a team to me, they’re a way of life,” Jaime Diaz explained. Diaz is part of the Kansas City batallon and explains the sentimental power of team and jersey.
“Since I was around 8 years old, I remember watching the games with my uncle where Cuauhtémoc Blanco, (Rafael) Márquez, (Jonny) Magallón, (Hugo) Sánchez would play with their inner Aztec souls for the glory of the game. It’s almost like a religion.”
We’ve spent the better part of the last year stuck inside and away from one another. Isolation makes sports loyalty all the more important. It’s been a way to connect from a distance.
The past few years have made it all the more necessary to lean on community through the tumult not just in regards to health but also of social injustice.
Xenophobia and racism continue to belittle and marginalize so many underrepresented communities. For fans proudly donning El Tri jerseys, pride in your cultural heritage is as visible as the patch on the chest.
“There is also the sense that you are representing your culture and family when you wear the jersey—something that is especially important here in the United States,” Stevenson explained. “The past 4-5 years there has been an increase of anti-Mexican sentiment growing in the United States, so putting on the Tri jersey is almost like taking a stand against the hate, showing that those of us with Mexican ancestry here in the United States are proud of our cultural heritage and what it represents.”
Diaz echoes the sentiment about a kit that you don’t just wear, you remember: “Not just the colors but the history behind the crest that represents the people of a great, rich country. You think about all the players that've worn the jersey and it reminds you of the greatness within the country.”
PVA’s leader and founder believes it particularly prudent at this time to wear the jersey. “Wearing the Mexican El Tri kit is wearing my identity with pride, especially given the last four years,” Tristán said. “It is important to be proud of who you are and its important to show your kids that it's OK to be different.”
The Mexican National Team moves forward toward a common goal, joined by the countless fans who are often more like family. Always a part of the community. Never alone. Solos, Jamás.