Friday, June 24, 2011
A natural delivery by distant neighbors
By Rafael Ramos Villagrana
Editor's note: The article below was translated from Spanish by ESPNDeportesLA.com.
LOS ÁNGELES -- The CONCACAF Classic. It's baptism is born like all rivalries. It's born the way great challenges are born. That is, in the unsubmittable heat of battle.
It's born without trickery, without marketing, without secondary interests, with no voracious godfathers, without promoters of fixed combats.
It is born out of blood. It is born in blood. It is born with blood.
The best summary is made by a veteran in these hardened battles.
Fernando Quizarte, a defender for Chivas, and a World Cup player for Mexico, explains it like this: "These games can't be lost ever, never. It was never necessary to tell that to the players. We knew it, we felt it," said the scorer of two goals in the Mexico's 1986 World Cup.
The other side of the story is no different. Nobody told them that you had to shake a yoke that had extended all over the court, the only subjugation that Mexico could perpetuate in sports, and pretended to, over the United States.
And that hurt. Landon Donovan said it before an elimination game, when Ricardo LaVolpe was "El Tri's" head coach, and the date was set in Columbus, Ohio. Donovan had his most fervent speech in front of the U.S. media.
"I want them on their knees, I want them humiliated, I want them suffering. They are arrogant and I can't stand them," screamed Donovan before that game, making clear the hostility, that shirt-to-shirt hatred, 90 minutes long, because he can’t forget his addiction to soccer and that his best partners in the long gone fields of infancy were Mexicans, many of whom he still consider friends.
"Every time we beat Mexico, my phone is flooded with messages of my Mexican friends who fight with me, who love me, but love Mexico more, but the moment goes by and everything is back to where it was," remembered Donovan of one of those glorious journeys.
But Quiriarte, as well, has synthesized the particular perception of going out to the fighting field against the U.S. "Beating the United States tastes better than beating any other national team. Losing to the United States hurts more than losing to anybody. And they, I’m sure, must feel the same."
A friendly in Dallas. Oswaldo Sánchez allows the winning goal by the U.S. in the waning moments. Sanchez cried out of his lungs: "We can't lose!"
The conflicted relationship between these two national teams has origins from many angles. There are military, social, civic, humanitarian, sport and economic components.
There is no doubt that Alan Roding, in his book "Distant Neighbors," thoroughly analyzes, better than anyone, its description in a 200-page volume, in which he places face-to-face, history against history, insult against insult, the thunderous coexistence of two nations that wind up intertwined by more than 30 million umbilical cords through the Mexican immigrants who are bred, born, grown and die beyond a frontier that every day collapses more and more on its restrictions.
And that reaches the playing field. "My cousins, my brothers, my friends, the ones that live in the United States, ask us that, that we lose against anyone, except the U.S. even though they live here," said Kikín Fonseca, a Mexico player of unlimited enthusiasm.
"If we lose, the next day all my family suffers humiliations from Central Americans and Americans (neighbors) and those are long weeks in their jobs and neighborhoods. It hurts them a lot," remembers Chivas defender Johnny Magallón, using the same tone.
Is this hatred breathed equally in the United States? Former coach Steve Sampson's expression, one of the men who lived the early stages of this conflict, puts it like this: "Against Mexico? The American sportsman doesn't need much motivation. He has a formation to keep winning always, even though you always have to talk to him. But in a soccer game against Mexico, it is not necessary to say anything. They know what to do and how to do it."
Once, former coach Bruce Arena, fed up with feeling the fans in the stands in a stadium in his own country were against him, was straight to the point: "If we have to play the qualifiers in Alaska, we'll go to Alaska."
But he preferred Columbus when they found out that there would be more Mexicans in any Alaskan stadium cheering for "El Tri."
Sampson also remembers some funny stories in different clashes against Mexico, and, especially games played in the U.S.
"It almost always happened. At dawn on game day against Mexico, at two, three or four in the morning, the fire alarms in the hotels would start ringing and they forced us to leave the hotel, and sometimes they made us wait one or two hours, to go back in the rooms. It had been a false alarm, and we always knew the ethnicity of the hand that pulled the fire alarm," Sampson said with a laugh.
Distant Neighbors. Alan Riding wrote the title in historical testimony of two nations that have a borderline scar from that complex relationship -- difficult but unavoidable.
Soocer adds its 90-minute drama to that thorny and difficult coexistence. And Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the time will have come again for a new chapter in this rivalry.