June 27th, 2011 by SeveSanchez
Stop. Get off Facebook.
There are people in Argentina dying, you know. River Plate. the most successful club in the land of Maradona Messi, has been relegated from the top division for this first time in their billion year existence. I don’t think I’d be guilty of exaggeration if I said the fans weren’t taking it too well. They’re currently making the Canucks riots look like the sorority pillow fight in Animal House.
There are so many rumors flying around, I don’t know what to believe– death threats to Diego Simeone’s kids, black smoke covering Buenos Aires, television vans toppled, canteens set on fire, invasion of the club museum, fatalities. Frankly, it’s hard to believe in anything coming from Argentine brass. The problem of football violence in their country is so systemic, it’s often suggested that the authorities are indeed the worst perpetrators.
I have no inside information, I’m not an ITK (“in the know”), but the current climate surrounding River’s relegation sure seems ripe to me for disaster. Thugs in club tops, thugs in police uniforms, and anger in abundance. We can only hope the Monumental is still standing in a couple days, and that we won’t have to wait too long for our next Superclasico.
After that little dose of the heavy stuff, my selling out Saturday and attending the Gold Cup Final doesn’t seem so bad, right? Right?! Here’s how I finally reneged on my promise to avoid the Gold Cup. Got an email from a friend midweek that basically said, “I know you’re boycotting the Gold Cup but I have an extra ticket for the Final, wanna come?” Me: “Uh, sure!” That’s the thing about betraying one’s principles; it doesn’t happen at high noon during the last battle of the last war, it comes on a busy Tuesday while you’re just trying to squeeze in some lunch. But when your national team is playing a cup final (albeit a solo cup) in your backyard, you go watch.
Before the match I had Mexico to win 2-1. They had the better squad and had played much more convincingly than the US during the buildup, plus you figure the doping suspensions only added to their desire to shove it to CONCACAF. But anything goes in these big rivalry games, and overall the US has probably been stronger since the 2002 World Cup knockout round. And the US was playing at home… or so I thought?
The last time I went to a US-Mexico game was January 19, 1997. Mexico beat the United States 2-0 in the U.S. Cup and after the match Marcelo Balboa gave me his (un)used cleats. (Tiny feet, totally lessened my opinion of him as a man). I don’t remember the atmosphere in the Rose Bowl then, but I wouldn’t have noticed anything off-putting that day anyway– I was rooting for Mexico.
This Saturday I most certainly was not, and I quickly realized supporters of my kind were vastly outnumbered. My favorite part in The Ten Commandments is after Heston leads the Israelites through the Red Sea, when Pharaoh’s chariots try to follow only to get completely swallowed up by thunderous waves. It kinda felt like that, except instead of water it was Mexicans drowning me. Red, white, and green–lots of green– enveloped me at every step. Mariachis, Bud Light Cheladas, the whole nueve yards. Might as well have been playing at the Azteca.
Perhaps the reason I’ve been so anti-Gold Cup is because somehow I saw this coming. I correctly predicted Bradley’s opening goal (even the header part), the demise of the American left flank with the introduction of Bornstein (sensationally awful), and the Dos Santos nail in the coffin. Maybe deep down I knew before the Gold Cup that I was in for a climactic conflict of emotion when these two countries would meet.
I wish I could pinpoint the day between 1997 and 2011 when my allegiance switched, but the truth is it was never so black and white. As a Mexican American, I always want both teams to do well. I get up early/stay up late to watch their big games, feel the same pain when each country is knocked out of the World Cup, and celebrate all their goals as if they were my own. So who am I to back when Mexico and the US go head-to-head?
The prevailing attitude for all hyphenated Americans (no pejorative connotation intended) is to root for their country of descent over the United States. It’s not just Mexican Americans, but Italian Americans, Irish Americans and so on. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. I guess as a youngster I just always unknowingly rolled with that tide, but I can’t speak for the majority. Maybe it’s the romantic notion of diaspora that causes people to forsake the US; maybe it’s a cultural identity thing; maybe it’s perceived as being more cosmopolitan to root for a foreign country; or maybe it’s simply because the US has traditionally been weaker than most countries of emigration and people just want to support a front-running team (arguably, and ironically, a very “American” approach to sporting allegiances).
But that don’t make it right. As I sat surrounded by 90,000 Mexico fans Saturday, my first thought was good on them for at least putting on for their country. Then I realized their massive outnumbering of the US fans was no coincidence– these people in green are American like me. And at some point after Balboa handed me his stinky boots, I came to believe that whatever your descent, if you’re Something American, it’s your duty to get behind the United States. Because that’s the thing with this country–we’re all Something Americans. Those (nonexistent) hyphens are what unite us and make us distinctly, yep, American. Here, I’ve even put together a little checklist in case you’re still in doubt of your Americanness:
- Born in the United States.
- Speak/understand/read/write English greater than or equal to any other language.
- Lived the majority of your life in the US.
- Rely upon American school systems.
- Vote in the US.
- Watch Seinfeld and/or Friends.
- Support the US during the Olympics.
- Happily accept a tax refund from the IRS.
- Know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner.
If any two of the above statements apply to you, you’re pulling for the United States, dude. Actually, screw it. We can solve this whole immigration issue in one fell swoop. Just give citizenship to anyone who will root for US Soccer ahead of their parent country’s team. (They have to like it, too). Litmus test sorted, American fanbase sorted. The next World Cup we host? We win.
The Man of the Match performance of Dos Santos prompted a swift email from Ravi. “What is it about Gio? He looks good at major tournaments but never seems to be able force his way into club reckoning.” Indeed, the Dos Santos case has been a baffling one. How can a perennial starter for El Tri struggle so much to hold down a place at a decent European club? I’ve mulled this Rubik’s Cube over for hours in my head, and I never get anywhere (just like an actual Rubik’s Cube). So instead of trying to figure it out, I’ve decided to field my first XI of players that are impressive at the international level but tepid for their clubs.
*A special mention should go to Freddy Adu, who proved me wrong and played like a Hezbollah rocket in the Gold Cup Final. He may force his way into this team if he continues to perform like that for the United States.
Ferreira Heitinga Seitaridis Salcido
Podolski Kallstrom Gourcuff Dos Santos
Anyone else you’d like to see in there?
The transfer rumors are flying high. Downing and Adam looking the most likely to Liverpool. If they both come and Meireles and Aquilani leave, my next post will be titled “The Madness of King Kenny.” Talk about a leap of faith into British arms.
Arsenal apparently in for Juan Mata? Wenger doesn’t have the cash for a bidding war, but I wouldn’t put it past him to try to screw a rival into paying over the odds. Once Fabregas deserts him, Wenger will officially be the most bitter man in football.
Andre Villas-Boas is the new Chelsea manager. No matter how hard he tries to convince us he’s not Jose Mourinho, he’s sure emulating the Special One pretty well. Personally, I think it’s a bad move for him. That Chelsea squad is becoming a retirement home and eventually Abramovich will clamp his purse shut. Great move for Chelsea though, they got themselves a top manager.
Hearts are becoming like the French team at the 2010 World Cup. Double you tea eff, Hearts.
Every picture I see Andy Carroll in, he’s boozing it up. Same for Rooney. And we’re all totally cool with this? Somehow, I was less offended when I saw Zidane lighting up cigarettes in his heyday. Now that I think about it, it was pretty cool. If big tobacco instantly wanted to have 90% of the world puffing away right now, they’d invest all their marketing dollars in ads of Zizou with his cig in his lip. He’s like a Jacobean Clint Eastwood with that thing in there.
I ordered a North Korean flag the other day, but much to my disappointment it didn’t arrive in time for the Gold Cup Final. Thinking about making that my thing– hauling a North Korean flag to every sporting event I go to. I might even spray paint “Kim Jong-illmatic” on there like the English do to their St. George’s Crosses. Loved all the North Korean drama at the World Cup. Double love all the myths about their fearless leader. Secretly, I like to believe some of them are true. It’s like Santa Claus for adults. Keep your eyes peeled for me on Sportscenter…
Man United all set to sign David De Gea from Atletico. Proficient shot stopper, but suspect in his positioning. £18 million reportedly the price, eh? Fergie’s claims that United had empty pockets were as laughable as the scene in Notorious when we’re supposed to believe Biggie’s mom thinks the plate of cocaine she finds under his bed is just “nasty, dried-up old mashed potatoes!”
Finally, check this out. It’s an awesome documentary a friend of mine in college made about the Tanzanian women’s team. For more info visit twigastars.com.Tags: Abbreviated Thoughts, Gold Cup, Mullet, River Plate, Tanzania