No matter your location, the love of football and the Minnesota Vikings should not be experienced alone.
Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Aldo Morales Salazar first became fond of the Vikings when he associated them with a popular children's cartoon.
"My love for the Vikings began in a funny way. I watched The Flintstones on TV, and I liked the hats of the Lodge," explained Salazar, who has an affinity for headwear. "Soon after I had a chance to see a Vikings vs. Dallas [Cowboys] game, and seeing the helmet of the Vikings, I fell in love and began to follow them from that moment in the mid-80s."
The chances to view Vikings games in Mexico were limited, as there were only a few teams being regularly broadcast in the country. Salazar said the traditionally popular clubs in Mexico have been the Steelers and Cowboys, with newer fans following the Patriots and Packers.
The fandom and passion for Vikings football, however, never wavered within Salazar, and he searched for ways to share this zeal with other football fans.
"The truth is that I was lonely. I watched the Vikings [by myself]. I was wearing my jersey on the day of the game, and people saw me [as] weird," Salazar said with a laugh. "Before forming the group of 'Skol Vikings [Monterrey],' I formed another one called 'Football Grill Nation' in 2014, and it has fans of all the teams. When more Vikings fans started arriving, I decided to create this group in 2016. We started with 13 members, and now we have more than 400."
Sundays are much anticipated by the members of the Skol Vikings Monterrey fan group, as they come together as a family and watch their Vikings play. For the past two years, the group's members have gathered collectively at a restaurant to enjoy food and football with each other.
With the rapid growth experienced by this fan club, they recently partnered with a similar restaurant that now hosts regular group events. The dining establishment serves as their own "Vikings headquarters" for the majority of events. Without fail, an average of 45 fans meet every Sunday from preseason through the regular season.
Skol Vikings Monterrey has experienced significant growth in the two years since its inception, which prompted the creation of the group Skol Vikings En Espanol. Formed less than a year ago, this inclusive group has an additional 488 members representing different parts of Mexico and other Latin American countries such as Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Spain. Hispanic and Latino Americans currently living in the United States also are in this group.
The utilization of social media platforms aids in extending the reach of the group and capturing new fans. More than 4,000 followers of the Facebook fan page consume daily Vikings content. Spanish-speaking Vikings fans can even subscribe to the weekly podcast with audio on Spotify and a video broadcast on YouTube.
Not only is this fan group committed to Viking's football, but the members also share a desire to impact their community by participating in community service events in Mexico.
This year, the group collaborated with a blood donation campaign that supported children with hemophilia. The initiative made news headlines and was reported on by Televisa, which is the largest network in Mexico.
Salazar shares credit for the popularity of the group in Mexico with Ricardo Sosa Jasso, who serves as a correspondent. The role perfectly fits Sosa Jasso, who is a resident of Minnesota and is fluent in both languages. Sosa Jasso relocated to the Twin Cities in 1992 and attended his first professional game between the Vikings and the Lions.
Sosa Jasso has remained a devout fan for 25 years and is very knowledgeable on the history of the franchise and current state of the team. He is responsible for the daily translation of Vikings information from English into Spanish content. His translating occurs year-round, including the NFL Draft, offseason and daily transactions.
"Information about the Vikings in the network in Spanish is extremely scarce, so Rick's work that helps give us day-to-day reports is very important ," explained Salazar.
It is not always an easy task to support one's favorite sports team that's located in a foreign country. The cost of travel can be high, which makes large group trips challenging to plan. Sosa Jasso explained that usually club members take smaller trips consisting of two or three members, and at least 30 members of the group have attended or will attend Vikings games this 2018 season.
The Week 12 trip to Minneapolis this season was one of the largest collections of members from Skol Vikings En Espanol to attend a Vikings home game at one time, and the logistics of traveling with a larger group included a full schedule of events just to make it to U.S. Bank Stadium for the matchup against the Packers.
They drove roughly 300 miles from Monterrey, Mexico to San Antonio, Texas, then waited in the airport to catch a flight to Minneapolis.
While on the visit to Minnesota, the fans got a chance to do some sightseeing and explore the Twin Cities. The group caught the Gophers win over the Badgers in a sports bar before attending the Timberwolves victory over the Bulls on Saturday. The Vikings win over the Packers on Sunday capped off a magical trip that will last a lifetime.
"Coming to U.S. Bank Stadium to watch the Vikings play live is quite the experience. For each of these fans, this trip is a dream come true," explained Sosa Jasso, who shares in the excitement. "Some of these fans have been Vikings fans for 40 years, and this is their first time seeing the team live in action."
The following of the NFL is getting stronger in Mexico. Thanks to Skol Vikings en Espanol, the Vikings have a fan base that is committed to forging ahead with the team and has hopes of experiencing a Super Bowl victory. Skol Vikings En Espanol aims to sustain its growth and convert new fans each opportunity.
"This is a good time to be a Vikings fan. The Spanish-speaking fan base is growing hand-in-hand with the success of the team, new facilities being constructed and recent player signings," concluded Sosa Jasso, followed by a loud group cheer in support of its favorite team.