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 By Tom Marshall

Liga MX returns one week after earthquake as relief effort continues

GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- There was a phrase that struck a chord and became a rallying cry in Mexico after the devastating magnitude 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19: "Mexico is on its feet."

A small part of the transition to a semblance of normality comes over the next couple of days as Liga MX returns. Round 11 of games kicks off Tuesday, exactly one week after the earthquake.

"Without forgetting the cause that united us, it is time to continue," read the league's message announcing that the games would be played. 

The earthquake was a tragedy. Over 300 people died, including one Club America youth team player. Some are still missing and others lost their homes. As such, the news that Liga MX and the Mexican federation had to postpone last week's Copa MX matches and the weekend's league games was of minimal importance in the grand scheme of things.

But the Mexican footballing community has played its part in the relief effort. One Liga MX manager (as well as a number of players) joined a volunteer brigade, stadiums became community centers for the collection of vital supplies for affected areas, and one journalist even held an auction of his jersey collection.

Elsewhere, Tigres and Monterrey held open training sessions to collect donations; players from Guadalajara clubs Chivas and Atlas -- from both the men's and women's teams -- congregated in a local shopping mall to show support and Queretaro offered its stadium to Pumas for free for Sunday's game.

The response was overwhelming in a difficult time, but the decision to return one week after the earthquake can't have been easy.

On one hand, the calendar is already tight. Missing a second round of matches would likely have meant extending the season, with two international windows between now and December.

On the other are concerns about the safety of everyone attending the game, as well as football matches not diverting vital logistical resources away from the clean-up effort. For example, some schools in Mexico City are still not open and there are hundreds of buildings still to be checked for structural damage in the nation's capital, not to mention the states of Morelos and Puebla.

Estadio Azteca
Mexico City's Estadio Azteca remains closed due to damage caused by the earthquake.

Games in Mexico City won't go ahead at least until after the international break, which starts next week. That has meant Cruz Azul's clash against Pachuca on Wednesday has been moved to Estadio Hidalgo, with Estadio Azul to host the reverse fixture in the 2018 Clausura.

At the weekend, Club America's game against Toluca will take place in Estadio Nemesio Diez and not the Estadio Azteca, while the Mexico City derby between Pumas and Cruz Azul on Sunday will be held in Queretaro's Estadio Corregidora.

The circumstances are not easy and there will be challenges, but Liga MX's return -- to be shown on a historic simulcast in the United States -- is more evidence that Mexico is getting back on its feet.

Round 11 matches:

Chivas vs. Lobos (LIVE on ESPNEWS/WatchESPN, 8 p.m ET)
BUAP Puebla vs. Atlas
Veracruz vs. Morelia (LIVE on ESPNEWS/WatchESPN, 10:30 p.m ET)
Tijuana vs. Tigres (LIVE on ESPNEWS/WatchESPN, Wednesday; 12:30 a.m ET)

Leon vs. Club America (LIVE on ESPNEWS/WatchESPN, 8 p.m ET)
Toluca vs. Pumas
Necaxa vs. Queretaro
Monterrey vs. Santos Laguna
Pachuca vs. Cruz Azul (LIVE on ESPNEWS/WatchESPN, 10 p.m ET)

Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.


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