Mexico mi amor was the title of the song recorded by the German national team, with singer Peter Alexander, for the 1986 FIFA World Cup™. Some 25 years later, the love has been rekindled in spectacular fashion, as a Germany team has returned to Mexico, this time for the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Steffen Freund's team have settled immediately to the task, winning all three of their group matches and scoring 11 goals so far - the most of any nation at the tournament. The German juniors are stationed in Queretaro, the very same location where Franz Beckenbauer and his players established their base in 1986.
“It was the best World Cup I ever played in," recalled then first-choice goalkeeper Toni Schumacher to FIFA.com. “There was a fantastic atmosphere, and it was somehow another of those summer fairytales."
Queretaro certainly has its place in German footballing lore. Beckenbauer's side played three group matches at the city of a million souls in central Mexico, where the chief memory for many fans was the toil of matches played out in the fierce midday heat. But the players tend to focus on an extraordinary team spirit which engulfed the German camp, and ultimately carried Kaiser Franz and his men all the way to the final. Rudi Voller, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and company ultimately finished runners-up to a superb Argentina side, spearheaded by Diego Maradona at his genius best.
Nowadays, the junior internationals cannot resist a giggle at the outrageous hairstyles and flamboyant clothing favoured by their illustrious predecessors from the year 1986. Back then, coach Freund was the same age as his players are now, and he recalls the 1986 FIFA World Cup very well: “I was 16 and avidly followed the whole thing. I especially remember the quarter-final against hosts Mexico. That really was unique."
There is no doubt that Freund and his players are thoroughly enjoying themselves in Queretaro. “We've been made incredibly welcome, which is magnificent for me and my team," said the 41-year-old. "We're enjoying every minute here."
Schumacher, who finished his international career with 76 caps, added: “The Mexicans were incredibly hospitable. What I particularly remember is the people. They were fantastic, really caring, big-hearted and crazy about football in the most positive sense."
Past glory has left its traces throughout the stadium in Queretaro. A little bit of 1986 is still in the air, evidenced by various posters on the walls, the imposing facade, and the unchanged fittings and accessories at the stadium which opened in 1985 ready for the following year’s global showdown.
In stark contrast to the senior team's stuttering start at Estadio Corregidora back then, the U–17s have been nothing but convincing so far. They opened with a 6–1 victory over Ecuador, before beating Burkina Faso and Panama 3–0 and 2–0 respectively. The players clearly revelled in the enthusiastic support from the good-sized crowds.
“It's the first time I've ever played in front of a crowd like that," reflected two-goal Samed Yesil after the first match, "When you've run out and sung the national anthems, it's a dream come true."
Olaf Thon, the youngest member of the 1986 squad, said: “The team should make sure they enjoy their time here, because they can have fun with their football now, even if there's a trophy at stake. Fingers crossed for Steffen Freund. Hopefully he’ll be able to keep the players relaxed and they’ll bring the trophy home with them."
The stars a quarter of a century ago were Rummenigge, Voller and Matthaus, but the crowds are being entertained this time round by Mitchell Weiser, Samed Yesil and Emre Can. However, the teams from totally different generations have one shared experience: the famous spirit of Queretaro.
“Back then we summoned up the spirit, and the current team should see if they can do the same," said Schumacher. "Maybe it'll reappear."