US v. Mexico futbol tonight

Posted on February 6, 2008

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Finally, a game appears on the schedule that really gets my blood flowing.  I love hearing about how Fulham finally won a game (and signed another American!) or about how the US finally beat a European team in a game being played on the actual continent of Europe, but I confess…. the soccer I love is country v. country, as God intended it. 

The Mexico/US animus may be relatively new in world soccer terms- where some rivalries literally started because of an ancient tribal dispute or a squabble over whose Renaissance painter was better, and snowballed from there- but it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.  The fire of any rivalry is stoked with the twin fuels of jealousy and resentment, and among these nations those emotions appear in such never-ending abundance that it almost seems like cold fusion.

These emotions flow from the mutual villainy of each country feels about the other.  The obvious geopolitical differences are the foundation.  Mexico is the hardscrabble and impoverished nation with real pride and real problems, looking at the Wealthy Tourist Americans across the tracks who’ve got it all and love to show it.  America is the World’s Quarterback- given all the gifts but burdened by leadership- and often resentful of the clinging charity case Mexico can sometimes be, frustrated that Mexico will bite the hand that feeds it jobs and aid when it comes time to reciprocate by actually running the country well.

Previously Mexico gained cachet with its peers by being the only CONCACAF nation that could compete with the European or South American juggernauts.  Its soccer prowess was its major trump card, especially over the United States, whose own attempts at the beautiful game were roughly comparable to watching 11 cats all fight over a ball of string.  However, recent American strides have put an end to Mexico’s unchecked dominance in the region and threatened a primary source of Mexican pride.  As hard as it may be for Mexico to come to grips with, CONCACAF is a 2-team region.  The recent American dominance of the rivalry and the constant butting of heads in the form of friendlies and qualifiers means that there is plenty of opportunity to breed contempt.

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