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KAI RYSSDAL: Of those billion people that could tune into the game on Sunday a couple of million of them are in Mexico. It’s home to the biggest football audience outside the U.S. and Canada. But the NFL wants more. From Mexico City, Claudine LoMonaco reports on the league’s Latin game plan.
CLAUDINE LOMONACO: Monday nights at movie theaters throughout Mexico City have sounded a lot like this lately:
TELEVISION BROADCAST: Touchdown! Touchdown, Alberto Jones!
The cheering is for Brandon Jones, wide receiver for the Tennessee Titans. The NFL has been showing Monday night games on the big screen here for months. It’s trying to grab more foreign fans, and their money. Last year, Mexicans spent $18 million on official NFL gear, like T-shirts and hats. When the NFL’s played a regular season game here in 2005, more than 100,000 people went to see it.
Geraldina Gonzalez heads the NFL’s office in Mexico. She says Mexicans are drawn to football in part because it represents American culture.
Geraldina Gonzalez: Someone strong that I can trust, that is reliable, someone that is always excelling and looking for the best.
To win more fans in this soccer-obsessed country, the NFL is getting into the game early. The league sponsors nearly 200 flag-football teams in grammar schools, like this one on Mexico City’s south side. Once the kids understand the game, the thinking goes, they’ll watch it.
Not everyone is so thrilled about football in Mexico. Cab driver Alfonso Alvarado thinks the NFL’s push here is another form of cultural imperialism, like the Wal-Marts and 7-Elevens cropping up everywhere. The 2005 live game was played in Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium. It’s one of the most famous soccer stadiums in the world.
Alfonso Alvarado [translation]: People didn’t like that they used this cathedral of soccer to see American football. I didn’t like it all.
Other Mexicans see the NFL’s attention as a reversal of sorts. With so many Mexicans traveling to the states to find work, it’s nice to see American teams heading south.
From Mexico City, I’m Claudine LoMonaco for Marketplace.
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