Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 94 – La Ola! The Mexican Wave! (1986)


It seems to have been part of the World sporting lexicon for longer than most can remember but that scourge of MCG security in any summer, the Mexican Wave, came to worldwide attention at the World Cup in 1986.

The originality of the wave has been debated about since 1986. Mexicans claim they had been doing it since football matches in the 60s. There was also stories about waves happening at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

Claims had also been made that it had originally come from either Canada or the US with both claiming ownership rights in what is a bitter battle similar to the great pavlova war of Australasia that continues to this day. A baseball game in Boston is seen by most north of the Mexican border to be where it was to have started but was not well known. There is also a claim that a ‘wave’ was in the Michael J Fox film ‘Teen Wolf’ which was released in 1985. It’s a thesis waiting to happen.

It was when Mexico 86 kicked off that the wave was started in stadiums like the Azteca where almost 100,000 took part ‘just to show off’ according to some Mexicans when recalling it. It became a worldwide crowd favourite that caught on outside of the Americas including, of course, Australia where it became one of the traditions of a day at the cricket normally half way through the final session. I don’t think the Azteca Stadium never had a members stand that always refused to participate to a chorus of boos though. The Canadians were at Mexico 86 but not the Americans so how did the wave start at the World Cup? You could say the claims it started Mexico may be true.

With the wave becoming one of the symbols of the very successful World Cup the term ‘Mexican wave’ was coined and stuck to this day. Some would see it was a symbol of bored sports fans waiting for action, some would see it as an excellent way to gee up a crowd. The organisers of the 2006 World Cup in Germany thought so starting up a wave before games to build up atmosphere.

Just remember where the Mexican Wave hit worldwide fame. It was a football World Cup in 1986 and that surely counts as a memorable moment.


About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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