Football South of the Border

Five years ago, Jessica Velazquez joined a pickup American football game with her little brothers and fell in love with the sport. Finding a league was surprisingly easy. Peewee flag football is surging in popularity in Mexico. So popular, in fact, that Jessica, now 18, thinks it might just unseat soccer as Mexico's favorite sport."I think it might be competitive with soccer nowadays," she said.American football is now the number-two team sport in Mexico and the NFL sees the country as a smart investment. Arturo Olivé, the managing director of NFL Mexico, estimates that the league's fan base has grown 300 percent in the past eight years, steadily gaining on soccer, the current top dog.And parents couldn't be happier. Jesus Romero is a peewee coach whose 16-year-old daughter just started playing American football. "She's a dancer, she likes jazz and all that but she decided to try out. She loves it," Romero said.A lifelong football player himself, Romero extols the virtues of the sport. "It's a way to live," he said, as he leads his team of 11 and 12-year-old girls in warm-ups. "It's so different from soccer. Soccer players are so sweet. Football players are tough and disciplined."  Continue reading...

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