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Thursday 18 October 2018
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JUMPING THE US-MEXICO BORDER WITH THE GRINGO XOLO

On the other side of the border there are dead bodies hanging from the trees, they say. Sometimes they find the bodies in dumpsters tied up with duct tape and with machetes in their hearts, while the murderers stand around on the street corner, smiling as they pick taco remains from the corner of their mouth. 

On a trip to the USA you can even get a first dose of such hysteria sitting on the plane. Row 37, seat E. Sitting comfortably with a glass of tomato juice in your hand. On this Tuesday evening, for example, somewhere over Denver or Las Vegas, two American college boys are sitting in row 38, wildly bandying about old statistics and third-hand anecdotes. Tijuana, they say, was one of the most dangerous cities in the world in 2009, with 72 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. They talk about drug cartel boss Teodoro ‘El Teo’ Garcia Simental, who used to have his rivals beheaded and dissolved in acid. And about Jorge Hank Rhon, the mad millionaire from Tijuana, who was caught in 1995 with twelve suitcases full of the skins of endangered species and who was taken into custody in 2011, because the police found 40 guns, 48 hand grenades, 9,298 bullets and 70 ammunition belts in his house. Anyone taking Californian Interstate 5 south across the border, therefore has to be pretty crazy. Or one of the world-weary football fans from the USA, who some time ago made the Xolos de Tijuana, Hank Rhon’s little plaything, their new home team. The college boys lean forward: “You really want to go there?”

Conversations like this can be unsettling, no matter who is speaking: two students, a politician or a TV reporter. But perhaps you have to them at least once in order to understand it all. This story of the Xolos and their special supporters from the USA. This story of fear and borders, but also of friendship and coming together. One that says a lot about the uniting power of football, yet just as much about American society. One that tells of way-out, adventurous characters. Of guys like Marty Albert and Roberto Cornejo. It begins on a sunny day in late February, 20 miles north of Tijuana.

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