MEXICO CITY – The Raiders must travel 1,876 miles to play a “home game.” That’s a required trek to face the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca, the second regular-season NFL game south of the border and first since the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals played in Mexico City 11 years ago.
The Raiders willingly gave up a home game to play before a massive Mexican fan base in love with the Silver and Black.
“I think there are a lot of benefits for the league in that way,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “I think for us, honestly, I prefer for that not to be our home game. Travel a couple of time zones, be hours away from our own place, but again I don’t worry too much about all of that. We just understand what it is, prepare ourselves for it and go down there and have fun competing. That’s how we do it.”
Del Rio said he expects it to be loud all the time, and has told his offense to prep for the noise of a road game and his defense to expect a home game’s energy.
The Raiders have sent a few ambassadors to Mexico City, including Latavius Murray, Taiwan Jones and TJ Carrie. Those guys expect a huge, vocal Raiders contingent to fill an Estadio Azteca that sold out minutes after tickets became available.
Houston is the closest NFL team to Mexico City so they’ll have supporters, but the Raiders should feel like the home team.
“The guys who have been down there already saw the passion and fire of Raiders fans firsthand,” Murray said. “It was incredible seeing all the support we have down there. It’s crazy, and it will be like a home game. I think we’re in for a treat.”
While the Raiders don't arrive until Sunday evening, they sent famous alumni like Mike Haynes, Marcus Allen and Tim Brown down early to headline the NFL International Series fan fest in Mexico City.
The Jack Del Rio Foundation, led by Del Rio’s wife Linda and daughter Lauren, also left early to donate backpacks, school supplies and playground balls to needy children. They are also giving money to charitable organizations doing work in Mexico year round.
Those events will build toward a game in front of 77,000 rabid fans who don’t get the chance to watch NFL football in person. .
“It’s going to be loud,” Del Rio said. “There’s a lot of people and it’s going to be very exciting. They’re looking forward to us playing a good game down there.”