Down, Set, Hut!

Football is here, and it’s here to stay
BY: FERNANDO RODRIGUEZ

With the September start of the NFL and college football season, what many local residents and visitors of Los Cabos are not aware of is that American football is the fastest growing sport in Mexico. In Cabo San Lucas, there are several different teams for various different ages; for both young men and women. 

The Pop Warner youth football teams practice at the Arenal Sports Complex, which is located near the downtown area of Colonia Juarez and is visible from the Highway 19 thoroughfare known as "El Bordo" that runs past the Cabo San Lucas Medical Center and Office Depot, towards the road to Todos Santos. 

The Don Koll sports facility in the Cangrejos neighborhood is where the Los Cabos Pop Warner football kids and women's flag football league hold their games. San Jose del Cabo has a tackle football team called Los Bulldogs, who wear red with black while the Cabo San Lucas teams dress in white with green and are known as Los Aguilas. The two rival cities play each other and also travel to La Paz to compete with the two teams that represent the State's Capitol. 

"Our main goal is to coach these kids and prepare them as best we can so they hopefully obtain a 'Beca' (college scholarship) and earn their 'Licenciado' (college degree) education and become model citizens," said one of their coaches, Francisco Tamez.

"The best way any young man can help his family's economic situation is by completing their college education," added Tamez. 

There have been over 29 players that have received scholarships to play college football from Cabo San Lucas at several universities throughout Mexico that are Conference members.

The college football conference of Mexico has been playing American-style football since 1978. The women's flag football league in both Baja California and the Republic of Mexico have not been around as long but its popularity has rapidly risen to the point of a world championship tournament that is held every year since it was founded in 2002.

Organized by the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), the men's and women's competitions are usually held in the same venue. The IFAF Flag Football World Championship is held every two years in different countries. The 2018 championships were held in Panama City, Panama and the 2020 competition will be held in the Republic of Korea. At the 2018 games, Mexico's Women's Team beat Austria 27-13 and lost in the quarterfinals to Team USA. 

The tournament competition featured women's teams from Group A - Brazil, Panamá, Guatemala, Canada, Japan, and the Czech Republic, as well as the Group B teams from México, the U.S., Denmark, Israel, and Austria. 

And of course, there are also full contact, full helmet and pads, football leagues for women that take place all over Mexico. The oldest of these is the Football Xtremo Femenil, which began in 2006 and the Asociación de Football Femenil Equipado, created in 2010. Of those two full-contact sports leagues, one of them is an American football style competition where the women wear helmets and football gear and not much else. This league is similar in every aspect to the Lingerie Football League that is played in America. And the other league is definitely the more serious copy-cat version of high school, college and NFL organization of the USA. 

But make no mistake, the young women playing any version of American-style football love the sport with a newfound passion and look forward to every new season of suiting up and competing in the gridiron game of football that is in dark contrast to the non-contact futbol soccer that is Mexico's pastime and the sport of national prominence. Claudia Amado, of Cabo San Lucas, plays in both the full contact, helmet and pads version as well as the flag football Liga Femenil. 

Athziry Campos is another local young lady who plays in the flag football league with the Lobas Marinas (Sea Wolves) along with Lilian Flores, and Julieta C. Güereña, just to name a few that are local superstars. 

And of course, there are two professional football leagues in Mexico that pay their players a paltry sum, but year in and year out have a roster of 53 men committed to continuing to play the game many consider the greatest game ever made, more popular now than American baseball and one that is continuing to grow and grow in Mexico at an exponential rate, with the professional teams playing in half-full stadiums and games telecast on cable television. 

The two leagues are The Liga de Fútbol Americano Profesional, a professional American football spring league in Mexico, founded in 2016. Starting with four teams, the LFA has since expanded to eight teams as of 2019. The current team salary cap is approximately $57,000 USD for the entire season. On average, a player receives only 11,000 pesos (approximately $600 USD) per year. An awfully low salary, that prevents players from professionally dedicating themselves to football full time. Games are telecast live on Canal Catorce (Channel 14), Claro and Fox Sports. 

The other pro league in Mexico is FAM, Football Americano de Mexico. The Mexican Football League was founded on August 7, 2018, as a pro football league whose intention was to generate direct competition to the Professional Football League (LFA) - which has been operating since 2016. FAM has approached the LFA to play a Super Bowl type contest between the champions of both leagues, but so far no agreement has been finalized. Even the FAM Commissioner has suggested that in the future the two leagues could merge, just as it happened at the time between the National Football League and the American Football League.

Yep, American-style football in Mexico has arrived and it's here to stay, for both men and women.