Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Swine flu knocks stadiums for silent economic loop

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MEXICO CITY -- Thousands of Mexican soccer fans had to forgo a beloved tradition Sunday, forced by a swine flu epidemic to cheer from their living room couches instead of sun-soaked seats at normally packed stadiums.

To the south of Mexico City, the Pumas team took on the Chivas at the picturesque Olympic Stadium, but its sold-out, volcanic-rock bleachers were empty. They tied 1-1.

Also Sunday, America faced the Tecos team in Mexico City's enormous Estadio Azteca as fans watched on TV.

On Saturday, Pachuca and Cruz Azul, whose team members are based in Mexico City, also lacked the live cheers and boos they normally hear.

National soccer officials decided to ban fans from the three matches after health experts recommended that citizens avoid large concentrations of people in which the virus could spread.

For the Chivas-Pumas game, that meant reimbursing more than $500,000 to 50,000 ticket holders and losing more money in concessions, especially beer sales. Soccer stadiums on Sunday are usually like enormous open-air cantinas.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2009 C2

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