Sofía Meza inherited a passion for soccer from her mother and an affinity for travel from her aunt Lupita.
So this was the perfect opportunity.
In November, she called her 77-year-old aunt Lupita León and her cousin, Ana English, to make them an irresistible offer: travel together to the World Cup in Russia.
Given the distance and the cost of travel and tickets, pretty much only die-hard soccer fans make the trip from Southern Arizona. Lupita lives in Douglas, Sofía in Tucson and Ana hails from Yuma.
At the time 35-year-old Sofía was making plans for this soccer pilgrimage, she didn’t know she would be engaged a month later with her boyfriend, Alex González, and that the trip to Russia with her cousin and aunt would become her bachelorette party.
The trio will fly to Moscow later this month to attend the round of 16 matches on July 2 and 3 in Samara and St. Petersburg. With their Mexican roots, the three will be cheering for El Tri, as the national team is known.
“I hope Mexico passes” to that round, Sofía said. “It’s going to happen.”
They have tickets for two matches involving Groups E and F. Mexico is in Group F, along with defending World Cup champion Germany and both Sweden and South Korea.
“They have it hard,” said Pita, as she is affectionately called by her nieces and nephews. “But of course, it can be done.”
Sofía watched her first World Cup on television at the age of 8. Italy was the host country and West Germany defeated Argentina 1-0, for its third World Cup title. The teams faced off again in the 2014 final in Brazil, which Germany won. It was the Germans’ fourth title and first since the country’s reunification.
“Since we were already on vacation from school, we would watch the World Cup all day. My mom would dress us in the (Mexican) team’s jersey and would even make us stand to sing the national anthem,” Sofía recounted. “To this day, every time Mexico plays, we get together at my house and it turns into a party.”
Mexico will open World Cup play on Sunday against Germany.
Sofía, who has been working as an account executive at Chase for nine years, still doesn’t know if she will be able to go to Agua Prieta, Sonora, where many of her family members live, to watch the match with her father and the rest of the family. If she can’t, she’ll watch the match with her boyfriend and some friends at a downtown Tucson venue. Both Playground and Hi Fi are well-known soccer watching spots.
Lupita and Sofía say they aren’t intimidated by the long trip to Russia. They traveled to Peru together two years ago.
“I am more of the traveler,” Lupita said.
“And I’m the one with the brilliant ideas,” Sofía said as she smiled.
Lupita said it was a no-brainer when her niece called with the travel idea.
“I didn’t think twice,” Lupita said. “If you think too much you don’t do things. I even have everything in the suitcase right now.”
Sofía’s wedding in October adds a special ingredient to the trip.
She hopes to create unforgettable memories with her cousin Ana, who she describes as someone easy to get along with, and with Pita, who has been like another mother.
The group plans to visit the Kremlin as well as other museums and cathedrals. They will also go to a Ballet Bolshoi function and, after, will spend a few days in Prague.
The trip, however, is more than a chance to see soccer matches. It’s their opportunity to create deeper bonds.
“When you travel with someone, you get to know people on a different level,” Sofía said. “You have deeper conversations.”
They also figure they’ll have fun — especially when they connect with other El Tri fans.
“It’s just that there’s no other people who party more than us,” Lupita said.