A Mexican’s World Cup Primer

No, it has nothing to do with Tequila shots or other such truck but rather a historical retrospective.

Mexicans get soccer fed to us in our baby bottles

I made this statement to an American friend a couple of years ago. Many will say that it is a generalization and perhaps be insulted by it. A Mexican-American chap who heard it certainly was and let it be known just how offended he was. The fact that he neither was born and spent most of his childhood living in México made his overreaction a little bit less credible.

My native land hosted the 1986 World Cup and I remember it vividly. Anyone remember the borderline offensive mascot, Pique?

[found the pic at:  http://degenerasian.blogspot.com/]

The memories are bittersweet because while Manuel Negrete’s strike made an indelible impression on my mind, the loss against ze Germans in the quarterfinals broke my young Tri-loving heart.

Over the years, we moved to America and my interest in soccer waned as it had to compete with American football, baseball and basketball. Yet every four years I was drawn to the world’s biggest sporting event, The World Cup. I have soaked in every WC since ’86, and followed especially close those in which my beloved Tri took part of. (All of them since ’86 except for Italy ’90).

I pined in ’94 to go watch them live but alas it was not to be. We are but 2 weeks away from the start of South Africa 2010 and like many of my compatriots living in all corners of the world, I am giddy with excitement.

Yet this anticipation is tempered by the ghost of México in World Cups past. Like many Mexicans I take a hopeful pessimism approach into each World Cup. Yes, the squad is a solid one with great potential but let us not set our sights too high.  Otherwise we will be disappointed if El Tri comes crashing down like cadet Juan Escutia at the Battle of Chapultepec.

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“Yes We Can!”

This chant (“Yes We Can!” or “¡Sí Se Puede!”) was introduced to the mainstream in the last Presidential election. Supporters of Barack Obama appropriated it and made it their rallying cry. If people have no problem hijacking Scripture to achieve whatever end, why not some silly phrase to usher in an era of perceived hope and change?

I say appropriated because the phrase did come from somewhere, and no I’m not talking about Bob the Builder (“Can we fix it? Yes we can!”).

The phrase is one of México’s contributions to the world of sports fanaticism. If memory serves me correct, I first heard it during the 1998 World Cup. It was used by the masses to support the national team as they went up against European powers such as the Netherlands (2-2 tie) and Germany (1-2 loss). Here’s an action shot from that match,

So close Luis, yet so far…

It makes sense why the Mexican collective would concoct such a phrase, given my native land’s ya merito (close but no cigar) performances every 4 years. They look great against top-flight competition, give us all hope of a breakthrough and then get barely beaten in elimination games. There was Germany in ’86, Bulgaria in ’94, Germany again in ’98, USA (this one still hurts) in ’02, and Argentina in ’06. I expect this upcoming World Cup to be no different, but I hope I’m wrong.

I guess I could also go on how the phrase reflects the class struggle that has been the fulcrum of México’s troubled history.

Which brings us full circle to the re-emergence of the phrase at recent protests against a law in Arizona which requires peace officers to ask for proof of legal status.

The law only applies in Arizona, for now, but 7,000 people took to the streets here in H-town in protest. They, of course, made copious use of this phrase.

I agree, this law is ridiculous and is probably unconstitutional. If you’re against nationalized health-care because it’s unconstitutional then why aren’t you against this law? But I digress…

Back to the marchers, I just have one thing to ask: Stop using this slogan.

It doesn’t apply here. “Yes We Can”, what? What can you do? Even if this was law here in Texas, what can you do? It’s obvious that Congress isn’t doing anything about immigration reform. It’ll cost too much politically to do so.

Come up with something better and leave this phrase where it belongs, when we root for our beloved Tri come June 11th.