A friendly clash between community-oriented clubs
By Paul Buckley
Earlier this week, Vaqueros Futbol Club announced an exciting addition to the upcoming season: an exhibition match against the reserve squad of Tigres UANL on June 21 at 7:30pm at Garvey-Rosenthal Stadium on the campus of TCU.
The exhibition match is a result of Vaqueros owner Michael “Hitch” Hitchcock’s long history of growing the beautiful game in Texas and beyond. When Hitch was the General Manager of MLS side FC Dallas, he built a strong relationship with Tigres, which included the creation of the “Rio Grande Plate,” a trophy contested between the clubs four times between 2006 and 2011. As part of their trip to Texas, Tigres will also be competing against Denton Diablos, the Vaqueros’ NPSL rival from up I-35.
Tigres UANL (or if you prefer their full name, Club de Fútbol Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León) was founded over 60 years ago in San Nicolás de los Garza, a suburb of Monterrey in Nuevo León, Mexico. Since their inception they have seen tremendous success both domestically and internationally, winning seven Mexican league titles, three Mexican cups, and the CONCACAF Champions League. They were also runners-up in the Copa Libertadores and the FIFA Club World Cup (the first and only CONCACAF club to reach the Club World Cup Final).
Needless to say, Tigres’ history of success will provide an opportunity for Vaqueros FC to showcase just how far they have come in their ten-year history. When I asked club GM Anthony Harris what made him most excited, he mentioned the caliber of the team and the experience that the Vaqueros players will get. This sentiment was echoed by Vaqueros winger Eduardo Calderon. “The team has been putting in nonstop work on and off the field and I can confidently say we are ready,” he explained. “I am looking forward to representing my city on the pitch and hearing the fans cheer.”
Speaking of hearing the fans cheer, Tigres fans, nicknamed “Incomparables” (“Incomparable ones”), are known as some of the most loyal and passionate in all of Mexican soccer. They regularly have the highest average home attendance of any team in Liga MX, and their fans travel in large numbers to away games. Given the relative proximity of Nuevo León and Texas, Vaqueros fans should expect a rocking environment at Garvey-Rosenthal. Tigres Sporting Operations Director Héctor González added: “We are very happy and motivated for our tour in Texas versus Denton Diablos and Vaqueros. We are sure these will be strong opponents and will give our fans and the community a great showcase.”
As always, Vaqueros Head Coach Tony Merola is focused not just on the game itself, but the broader implications for soccer in Fort Worth. “For our players and supporters to witness this game at TCU will only enhance the popularity of the game in our City but also our Club,” he said. “To have an exhibition match against what will be a very competitive Tigres side is a true testament to our Club that a team of this stature wants to come play in Fort Worth.”
In addition to sharing the pitch on June 21, Vaqueros and Tigres share common ground in their mission to improve the communities they call home. Tigres have been at the forefront of efforts to eliminate discriminatory chanting from fans at soccer matches, incentivizing the change by promising to refurbish local elementary schools. If that sort of outreach sounds familiar, it might be because Vaqueros Futbol Club has dedicated time and energy to working with local elementary schools in Fort Worth.
Add it all together, and you have the makings of a legendary night. Vaqueros season ticket holders will be allowed entrance to the match for free, and individual tickets are on sale as well. Coach Merola summed it up best: “We can’t wait for it and I hope our supporters turn out in force for it!”
Paul Buckley is a writer and educator living in Fort Worth. In addition to reporting on the team’s happenings, he is collecting stories to help celebrate ten years of the Vaqueros in Fort Worth. Have a story about the club you’d like to share with Paul? Just want to say hi? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org