Editorials | Issues | February 2009
|The Latest Round of the US-Mexico Soccer Rivalry|
Allan Wall - PVNN
For those of our American readers who aren't aware of it, the U.S. and Mexico just played a big soccer game on February 11th. It was big news in Mexico.
|For Mexicans, to beat the U.S. in the U.S. has become almost a sick obsession.|
Several days before the game, a piece entitled Mexico and its Obsession to Win in the U.S., was published by AP and Mexico's Universal. The article summed up the situation thusly:
"For Mexicans, to beat the U.S. in the U.S. is something that has passed from a desire to an almost sick obsession. On local television, the sports segments dedicate a great part of their time speaking of the duel and they sent correspondents to Columbus, Ohio two weeks ago. The tone of the discussion is the same. Everybody wants a victory that breaks the streak that began almost ten years ago, since Mexico beat the US in the U.S. in March of 1999 (the last time the U.S. lost to Mexico at home.)"
Welcome to the US-Mexico soccer rivalry, ignored by many Americans but avidly followed by Mexicans.
One Mexican newspaper went so far as to offer coupons, redeemable at Blockbuster Video in Mexico City, for dolls of U.S. soccer players. Why? So could cast voodoo hexes on them!
But the voodoo hexes didn't help. The much-awaited match, played at Columbus Crew Stadium on February 11th, was won by the U.S., 2-0. Both goals were scored by Michael Bradley, son of head coach Bob Bradley.
This was a big disappointment for the Mexican team and its fans. It's also very frustrating. And ironic. Soccer (fútbol as it's known south of the border) is Mexico's most popular sport, and the fate of the national team is followed avidly. The Mexican national soccer team, known as "el Tri" (for the tricolor Mexican flag) is a part of Mexican national identity.
In contrast, interest in professional soccer teams in the U.S. is not high, and many with many Americans barely aware of the U.S. national soccer team's existence.
Nevertheless, in recent years the American soccer team has improved greatly and has beaten Mexico on numerous occasions (though never in Mexico, where el Tri has a definite home field advantage.)
The U.S. team is currently ranked higher Mexico in the FIFA rankings. (FIFA is the acronym for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, the world's governing soccer body.)
Current FIFA ratings have Spain in the number #1 spot, followed by Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Brazil and Argentina. The U.S. team is rated #20, right below Greece and above Switzerland. Mexico is ranked #24, right below Nigeria and above Sweden. (Coincidentally, the current head coach of the Mexican team is Sven-Goran Eriksson, a Swede.)
A glance at the history of the U.S.-Mexico series shows definite improvement on the U.S. side. The two teams first faced each other in Italy in 1934, and have competed against each other in 56 matches. Mexico has won 30 of the games, the U.S. 16, and 10 matches were ties.
The U.S. won the first match, in 1934. But from 1934 to 1980, Mexico beat the U.S. 21 times and the two teams tied thrice. After that 1980 game, they only played once more in the '80s, in '84 when Mexico won.
But from 1990 to the present the U.S. has beat Mexico 14 times, Mexico has won 8 times, and 7 matches have been draws.
Both teams are expected to qualify for the next World Cup, scheduled for 2010 (next year) in South Africa.
Winning a World Cup is a perennial dream of Mexican soccer fans. But it's never become reality. Mexico has competed in 13 World Cups since 1930, and the highest it has gotten was the quarterfinals, in 1970 and 1986. (In contrast, the U.S. has competed in 8 World Cups and its highest-ever placing was third, but that was back in 1930.)
The Mexican and U.S. soccer teams are scheduled to face off again in six months, in the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, on August 28th. It's another World Cup qualifying match. For Mexican fans, the World Cup dream and desire to beat the U.S. come together. For the U.S. soccer players, it's an opportunity to try to beat Mexico in Mexico, something the U.S. team has never done.
All in all, the scheduled match is to be the next round in an intense sports rivalry...
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at AllanWall.net.
Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.