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Local Mexican Immigrants Excited About World Cup

Passions are running high in Central Ohio's Mexican community these days. It's not over immigration. It's not over a fence being built along the U.S. border. What's caused the excitment among Mexicans living in Columbus is soccer. The Mexican national soccer team is a strong contender in this year's world cup, and local Mexicans are doing everything they can to watch every game.

Fans of Mexico's national team don't react well to narrowly-missed goals.

The young men gathered at La Plaza Tapatia on the city's west side to watch Mexico play Angola. La Plaza Tapatia is half restaurant, half Mexican grocery store on West Broad Street. The bartender was the only woman in the crowded bar area.

Between sips of Coronas and bites of tacos, the men scowled as their team struggled. All of them agreed Mexico should have been blowing out the team from the West-African Nation. One of the most visably upset was Roberto Rodriguez of Columbus. Rodriguez moved from Mexico 13 years ago. He, like many Mexican immigrants, brought his passion for the game andhis national team with him. He says most Mexicans love soccer because they have fewer sporting options in their home country.

Roberto was also worried about the game for financial reasons. He had a substantial bet with his friend, who puts money ahead of team loyalty.

Roberto's friend Rodrigo Rodriguez appeared to be the catalyst of the group. He walked into the room wearing a sombrero at least two feet wide.

Right after he sat down he offered to buy everyone a shot of tequilla. Rodrigo says he has taken off work for the entire World Cup so he can watch every match. He says that is the norm im Mexico.

The bartender at La Plaza Tapatia, who asked not to be identified because of immigration concerns, says business has doubled during the World Cup. She says she sees the same customers she sees every day. But during the World Cup they stay longer. They eat more and they drink more.

About a mile and a half northwest of the restaurant, Alex Flores prepares this week's issues of La Voz Hispana, a Spanish-language newspaper, that claims to be the largest such publication in the state.

Flores serves as director and head reporter at the paper. He says Mexican bars and restaurants in Ohio thrive during sporting events because about 70 percent of the state's Mexican community is single males. Flores, a Mexican himself, takes exception to Rodrigo's claim that 80 percent of his homeland takes off work to watch the country's World Cup matches. He estimates the percentage to be much higher.

Flores says many Mexican immigrants continue supporting their team after arriving in the U.S. because it makes them feel like they are still connected to their home country.

If Mexico can keep winning, fans will be able to support their team through the round 16 this weekend. The tournament ends July 9.