First Posted on Facebook 29th May, 2016
Kevin Donnelly shares his memories of Mexico ’86; today being the 30th anniversary of his departure for Mexico.
Thirty years ago today I set off for the world Cup in Mexico. For anyone who doesn’t know, we were drawn against West Germany, Denmark and Uruguay. By common consent it was known in Mexico as grupo de la muerte or, in Scottish terms, groupo el deatho.
Mexico as a place is famed for its Day of the Dead, as seen at the start of the recent James Bond film but as for me, I was full of beans, not Mexican, and pure dead excited about my own big trip to Mexico. My travel companions were an old acquaintance from Spain 82 who was in the British Communist Party, a vegetarian and a very selfish bastard. The other traveller in the party I had never met before but turned out to be a lovely guy. The communist was all for the redistribution of wealth as long as it wasn’t his own. His finest moment on the trip came when he managed to beat 50p off the price of a hammock through hard haggling with an impoverished street hawker.
We flew via Houston which made it even more of an adventure as I had never been to the States before and whilst a two hour stopover was hardly a week in Vegas, the excitement level was reaching fever pitch. And then the football started. Bizarrely the Scotland v Denmark game was not our first game as we had decided to take in the extremely forgettable Spain v Brazil game in Guadalajara as a warm up. What is not so forgettable is the hangover suffered due to partaking in a margarita frenzy with three Northern Ireland fans in a bar post match.
As for the games the one against Denmark was probably the most depressing as the defeat meant we were virtually out after the first game. The West Germany game was played in ridiculous heat and after we had the temerity to take the lead, the writing was on the wall. My one enduring memory of that game, even more than Strachan’s goal, was Steve Archibald playing upfront on his own and trying his best but with little or no support.
As for the Uruguay game we had nothing to offer really. Nicholas had been injured against the Danes and was clearly unfit when he came on as a sub. So that was it. Out and the chance to play Argentina in the Azteca had disappeared like a mescal induced vision.
Every so often I go to a city and wonder how on earth it functions. Mexico City was the first time I ever thought that. All the taxis were orange VW beetles. They would put your bags in the boot at the front and if we were held up at a red light the driver would get out to make sure nothing untoward happened to your gear. That said we had no problems with the locals and I found Mexican people to be amongst the friendliest I have ever met. On one occasion a guy came up to me in the street and asked if I spoke English. When, reluctantly, I said I did, he simply replied “Welcome to Mexico”.
After we had bid farewell to another World Cup myself and my two compadres pitched up in Acapulco for a few days. This will be the life I thought, paper umbrellas in funny coloured cocktails, pool bars and a lively nightlife. All of that was in fact correct, what I had not allowed for was the dead pig being carried in with the surf on the beach. I met Alan Rough a couple of years ago and when I told him this story he asked if I had seen the dead horse outside the stadium in Neza. Fortunately for me that was one of the sights I missed.
This trip was a series of firsts for me, first time in the States, first time in Mexico, first time, but not the last, I have wanted to kill a travel companion and the first time I visited a brothel.
Casa Rosa in the hills behind Acapulco was a large villa with an equally impressive pool. One of my mates, guess who, was not for paying for it but my other mate went off to negotiate a deal. As for me, no cash, never mind body fluids, was exchanged. I sat by the pool, drinking a beer and chatting to a beautiful woman wearing nothing but a sheer gossamer dressing gown and a silver g-string then made my excuses and left after the negotiations of my friend had stalled.
As for boozers there were no cantinas as such with guys in sombreros knocking back tequila but we found ourselves one night in The Oxford bar where there were equal numbers of “bar girls” and minders. All the minders had a uniform of beige three piece suits, black shirts and beige ties. This was in the Zona Rosa, the hip happening part of Mexico City which funnily enough, an individual in our group thought was a bit pricey at 30p a pint.
This time we really were home before the postcards, the Mexican postal service most definitely taking the manana attitude. I wouldn’t say they were late but they could have doubled as Christmas cards.
Other memories have emerged in writing this. The stunning white sand of the beaches on an island off the coast of Cancun. Taking eight hours in a bus to get to Acapulco when we could have flown in 45 minutes for the same price. Meeting a German girl who was on holiday with her dad. He hated the sun and Mexicans and only came out of his room to buy brandy. She had to sort out match tickets for him and his travel. Watching three Scots in kilts wander off down the back streets of Neza after the Uruguay game, lost but not caring as another world cup bit the dust.
I returned without my luggage, see the above reference to wanting to kill a fellow traveller, but with a different view on life. Many people have told me following Scotland changed their lives and going to that tournament changed mine. Not as much as my mate who met a lovely Mexican lawyer in a bar the first night he arrived and six weeks later had her working behind the counter in his corner shop in Dumfries but that, as they say, is another story.