There was a time not too long ago when the city of Chula Vista and the San Diego Chargers engaged in a brief flirtation. When then-Councilman John McCann led the charge for the Chargers in Chula and the Bolts responded by window shopping for potential new stadium sites in the city.
Nothing much came of that relationship, not even a promise ring made of copper. And as of today the Chargers still don’t have a Super Bowl championship trophy or a new stadium anywhere in the county.
And Chula Vista? The closest thing to a professional football team they have is a futbol club with a nearly unpronunceable name playing south of the border.
Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles, Xolos (pronounced Cholos) for short, is TJ’s first division soccer team. But they draw so many supporters from Chula Vista, National City and other parts of the county you’d think you were at a Bolts tailgate party. The club even has a youth academy at Hilltop High School where would-be stars learn the fine points of the game and building community.
On Sunday the Xolos won their first ever national championship. The remarkable accomplishment sparked a celebration this county will never witness, even if its football and baseball teams won their respective titles in the same year.
(Strike that. Never is a long time. Make that probably won’t ever see in my lifetime.)
Even though years ago the Padres won their National League title and the Gaslamp was stuffed with honking cars and screaming people; even though the Chargers won the AFC title and were Super Bowl-bound and tens of thousands of people gathered at the Mission Valley stadium to welcome Seau and Co. home, those celebrations pale in comparison to what happened in Tijuana Sunday night.
At Estadio Caliente, where the Xolos play, tears of joy were awash in beer showers.
In the streets leading to and away from the parking lot, cars sat bumper-to-bumper with elated fans hanging out and on top of cars, trucks and motorcycles.
On Paseo De Los Héroes in Zona Rio the scene was one of friendly chaos. Young men and women climbed a statue dozens of meters off the street and from the top waved the team’s flag; below them mothers, fathers, daughters and sons circled, laughing, singing, chanting and beating drums.
Make no mistake. The people in San Diego know how to party and celebrate victories. But unlike Tijuana, there is no central gathering spot. Certainly not a walkable one. The Gaslamp? Balboa Park? Third Avenue? Where do fans go when they want to roar loudly and proudly and well into the next morning?
Xolos fans will go to Tijuana.
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