It's Mexico, it's the regular season, and it's history in the making!
For the first time in its illustrious 86-year history, the NFL will play a regular-season game outside the United States. On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals will host the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City, Mexico at Estadio Azteca that has been reconfigured to hold 85,000 fans (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, 8:30 PM ET).
The NFC West clubs will renew an old rivalry - they first met in 1951 - in a new setting, as passionate fans of "Fútbol Americano" get ready to make history.
"Mexico is the country with the most NFL fans outside of the United States," says NFL Commissioner PAUL TAGLIABUE. "Our fans in Mexico are knowledgeable and passionate and they are ready for this next step. The Cardinals and 49ers play in markets with large Hispanic communities, including many people of Mexican decent. This game will generate new excitement both in Mexico and in Hispanic communities throughout the United States. It promises to become a milestone in the NFL's history as a global sport."
Perhaps few understand the passion of Mexican fans more than RAUL ALLEGRE, who spent nine years as a kicker in the NFL, helping the New York Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XXI. The native of Mexico is expecting a festive, knowledgeable crowd that is eagerly anticipating their first taste of regular-season action.
"There is a more than 100-year history of American football in Mexico and a true love of the sport," says Allegre, the analyst on the ESPN Deportes telecast of the game. "I think the crowd will be part of a very festive environment that is anxious to appreciate and celebrate the NFL and looks forward to being a part of this historic occasion."
The NFL has developed several programs to nurture the sport among Mexican youth, including the NFL Gatorade Tochito program, a free non-contact league for boys and girls that reaches more than 100,000 children age 8 to 18 in Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Puebla.
A look at some prominent Mexicans in NFL history:
- Anthony Muñoz - In 1998, the Cincinnati Bengals' great was the first player of Mexican ancestry elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Tom Flores - Was the first person ever to earn a Super Bowl ring as a player (Chiefs, Super Bowl IV), assistant coach (Raiders, Super Bowl XI) and head coach (Raiders, XV).
- Joe Kapp - Quarterbacked the Minnesota Vikings to a berth in Super Bowl IV.
- Jim Plunkett - Earned Most Valuable Player honors in Super Bowl XV, leading the Raiders to a championship.
- Tony Casillas - Defensive tackle helped the Dallas Cowboys win consecutive championships in Super Bowl XXVII and XXVIII.
- Max Montoya - Four-time Pro Bowl guard played in two Super Bowls with the Cincinnati Bengals.
- Raul Allegre - Enjoyed a nine-year career as a kicker, leading the 1986 Giants in scoring and helping the club to a victory in Super Bowl XXI.