'In Mexico soccer is like religion': Brazil and Mexico fans in Regina support their teams

In Regina, fans from Mexico and Brazil came out to support their teams as they squared off in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup.

Fans supporting both teams came out to support their teams and nations on Monday

Anthony (bottom left), Julio jr. and Julio Camacho woke up early and dressed in their nation's colours to support Mexico during their match on Monday. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan)

Monday morning in Regina — some 8,000 kilometres away from a soccer stadium in Samara, Russia — soccer fans packed The Lobby bar cheering for either Brazil or Mexico.

The two squads squared off in the World Cup's round of 16, each hoping for a berth in the tournament's quarter-finals.

Julio Camacho and his two sons, Julio Jr. and Anthony, were up early in Regina for the game, wearing Mexico's green, white and red team colours and holding a Mexican flag.

Earlier in the tournament, when the Mexican team beat powerhouse Germany, Camacho thought his nation's team might make it further than they ever have.

Mexico has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup, but this time around the young squad with a counter-attack that picked apart the 2014 champions looked dangerous going into the round of 16. 

"Soccer is like religion in Mexico, like soccer is our sport and here it's hockey or football, but in Mexico it's soccer," Camacho said. "We've got Mexico fans all over."

In the 70th minute, The Lobby erupted, mocking Brazilian superstar Neymar's theatrics after a Mexican player stepped on his ankle. The challenge was hardly worthy of the apparent agony Neymar was displaying and fans cheering for the Mexican side came to together to hurl an insult at the screen.

When the final whistle blew, however, Camacho's team came out on the losing end, as Brazil was too much to handle on this day, winning the match 2-0.

"Mexico lost. We were expecting more, they couldn't put a pass together," said Camacho. "Brazil played a good game though, their defence was strong."

For the Brazil fans in attendance the mood was far more hopeful. The team has five World Cup wins, which is more than any other team. 

Ben Chursinoff was also in the Regina bar for the round of 16 game. The lifelong Brazil fan was nervous after his team tied underdog Switzerland in the tournament's group stage, but was happy to see them hit their stride.

Ben Chursinoff and his girlfriend Andreea Tamaian were cheering for Brazil on Monday. Tamaian said she was on the fence with respect to who she would cheer for, but her Brazilian boyfriend tipped her in favour of the Seleção. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan)

Last World Cup, Brazil lost 7-1 at home in the semi-finals to Germany. Chursinoff said he was "pretty happy" to see Germany get knocked out in the group stages this year. 

But for him, cheering for the team is a way to connect with his country. Chursinoff said when he was three months old he was adopted from an orphanage in Brazil and brought to Canada.

"That's how I identify with my country," he said. "Growing up I've always watched the World Cup every four years and it's always fun to get together in an atmosphere like this in Regina."

Chursinoff said he's always surprised to see how many people cheer for Brazil but may not have any connection to the country. But considering the soccer stars and brilliance of their play, he felt it makes sense.

"If you look at the history of the Brazilian team, they've always been flashy, a lot of style, a lot of skill," he said. "It really is the beautiful game."