Tom Marshall: Tigres fans make history, steal headlines

Tigres was greeted with an extraordinary amount of traveling support for its away match at San Luis this weekend.
Despite all the goals, points of debate, teams moving up and Cruz Azul being in free fall, the major topic of the weekend in the Liga MX was surely Tigres fans traveling en masse to San Luis Potosi to witness the team’s 2-1 victory on Saturday.

Just how many fans made the 300-mile trip from Monterrey to San Luis is not known, but most estimates agreed the figure was around 23,000, with 400 buses chartered and tickets for the game selling out in just one day. Outside the stadium, scalpers hawked tickets for over three times their original price.

“Today comes the Tigres invasion,” read the lead headline on one of San Luis Potosi’s lead newspapers. Hotels reported 100 percent occupancy and other business enjoyed an unexpected windfall. In the stadium, there was a sea of yellow and “home” fans were very much in the minority.

The “invasion,” as organizers call it, was historic. It was the biggest traveling away fan presence in Mexico since Celaya took 50,000 fans to the Estadio Azteca back in 1996.

It was clearly a boost for first-placed Tigres and their players against the Liga MX’s last-placed side.

“Today is historic, it is breathtaking,” said Spanish forward Luis Garcia, who scored the winning goal and has played in La Liga for most his career. “There’s nothing left to say except thanks because they have always helped us in bad times, like last season, and in the good times like this season.”

The Tigres trip was planned by the team’s main barra, the Libres y Lokos, back in December and follows a trend within the club’s fanbase that really started in March 2011 when 8,000 fans turned up in Guadalajara for a match against Chivas. Since then, almost 10,000 Tigres fans made it to Pachuca for the playoff away game at the end of the year and, in February last year, 15,000 Tigres fans traveled to Mexico City for the game against America.

But Tigres isn’t the only team that has a growing number of fans willing to shed out their hard earned money to follow their side near and far.

Leon broke the previous record, barring that of Celaya, just a couple of weeks ago against Chivas. Around 20,000 fans of the Panzas Verdes made the two-hour trip to Jalisco’s capital. That followed the 15,000-strong contingent that traveled to the Azteca to see Leon versus America last October.

Tigres’ city rival Monterrey has also started to promote mass trips for its fans, but so far has only managed a few thousand at each of the games. Expect that to grow.

It is worth pointing out that in many stadiums around Mexico, America and Chivas fans are in the majority when they play. But that is due to their nationwide support, not huge amounts of fans traveling miles to see their team.  

Under that criteria, there is little doubt that Tigres are leading the pack in the Liga MX. The Discovery Channel has even picked up on it and shot a mini-documentary on the Tigres “invasion” of San Luis. The color, passion and sheer craziness of the fans will make it a great watch when it airs on March 15.

The “invasion” is an increasingly common sight in the Mexican game and is unique on the American continent. Long may it continue.

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