MEXICO CITY (AP)—Thousands of Mexican soccer fans had to forgo a beloved tradition Sunday, forced by a swine flu epidemic to cheer from their living room couches instead of the sun-soaked seats at packed stadiums.
To the south of Mexico City, the Pumas team took on the Chivas at the picturesque Olympic Stadium, decorated by muralist Diego Rivera, but its sold-out, volcanic-rock bleachers were empty. They tied at 1.
Also Sunday, America faced the Tecos team in Mexico City’s enormous Estadio Azteca as fans watched the action on television.
Only a few people milled around outside the stadium, with most of the city’s 20 million inhabitants hunkered down at home. Most of those who ventured out wore surgical masks, which were being handed out by soldiers on street corners.
On Saturday, Pachuca and Cruz Azul, whose team members are based in Mexico City, also lacked the live cheers and boos they normally hear when the clubs played in the central state of Hidalgo.
National soccer officials decided to ban fans from the three matches after health experts recommended that citizens avoid large concentrations of people in which the virus could spread.
For the Chivas-Pumas game, that meant reimbursing more than $500,000 to 50,000 ticket holders and losing more money in concessions, especially beer sales. Soccer stadiums on Sunday are usually like enormous open-air cantinas.
“Yes, it affects us, but … it is more important to prevent the spread of the disease,” Mario Trejo, athletic director for the Pumas football club, told Mexico’s Milenio TV on Saturday.
“We don’t want to stress the economic element as if it were the most important, because it’s not. Health is more important … preventing a death. We don’t want to give the idea to our fans that we are more worried about this than about their health.”
A top Mexico City pro baseball team—Los Diablos Rojos or Red Devils—on Sunday said it would play three games next week away from its Mexico City stadium. The games will be played in Coahuila in the north of the country.