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World Cup in LA: Mexican soccer fans view game as 'a culture, a religion'

by Dorian Merina | Take Two®

Julio Ramos sets up Mexico Flags while tailgating before the LA Galaxy versus Chivas game at the StubHub Center in Carson. Ramos will be cheering for Mexico during the World Cup, he said. Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

This piece is part of KPCC's occasional series on the World Cup in Los Angeles, which takes a look at the diverse communities of Southern California through the lens of their love for their country's teams. Let us know whom you're rooting for in the comments below, on Facebook or on Twitter (@KPCC).

Mexico takes on Cameroon today in the World Cup, the first game for Mexico in the four-week tournament.

Mexico typically has a team stacked with talent and promise, but has yet to raise the trophy. This year’s team had an especially tumultuous path: barely qualifying and going through four different coaches last year.  

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But for die-hard fans, rooting for Mexico is a way of life.  

"To us soccer is a culture, a religion, it’s a style of life," says Julio Ramos 34, of Pacoima. Ramos is part of the L.A. chapter of Pancho Villa's Army, a U.S.-based fan club for the Mexican national team, founded in 2013.

"It's important for us to be able to bring our families, our kids, and embrace it and show them what soccer is about, cause at the end of the day this is a beautiful sport," says Ramos.

So what are Mexico's chances in this World Cup?

Luis Vazquez, content director and writer for Futmexsource.com, a website that tracks the national team, says if the team can get out of pool play and compete in the quarter- or semi-finals, fans will have a lot to celebrate.

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"You need a history of soccer in your country, you need a coaching staff and the minor leagues to all come together in one time to produce a generation of players that are way above the norm of the world. Mexico hasn’t had that," says Vazquez. But he says it's showing promise.

For Jose Salcedo, one of the founders of L.A.'s Pancho Villa's Army club, the game brings together people from across the city.

"When the national team from Mexico comes out, go out there have your carne asada, bring your beer, bring your drums, your flag and proudly support your team," says Salcedo, 32, of Sylmar. "You know, soccer is a very passionate sport."

Mexico will need to draw on that passion in the days ahead. After Cameroon, the team will have to play both Croatia and tournament-host Brazil before advancing.

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