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Mexico’s Pain and New Love for Lalas

I must admit having a new respect for the Mexican people today even if I still detest their national football team. They are a people who seemed to have so much hope that today they would finally remove the spell Landon Donovan (aka the Mexicutioner) and his mates have on their national team, and yet deep down they knew when they took the 1-0 lead it would not last. All morning long anticipation filled the air, even in this a glorified tourist town. The locals planned to shut down their businesses of bring in large TVs to the shops to watch the match. I watched the game as a promised at La Moreno in Cozumel where the restaurant owner had brought in a big film screen for patrons to watch the match. As the only American fan in the establishment (wearing a #17 DeMarcus Beasley jersey) I stood out like a sore thumb.

Nonetheless, the patrons were all more than kind and respectful of me. They must have known as a lover of the beautiful game back home that I must get lots of abuse from the adherents to the jockacracy that runs the American sports media and that I must be a real lover of the game to actually own a US jersey. (What they do not know is that I am a sucker who buys every new kit once Nike introduces it, and I probably could have given each and every one of them an old out of date US jersey) Moreover, since the US has become so dominant in the rivalry between the two nations, Mexicans fans have a begrudging respect for the American team even if they keep mentioning how dirty they feel Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra are. When the US tied the match at 1-1 the Mexicans all knew it was a matter of time before the roof caved in. Nonetheless, the comical finishing of Brian Ching and DeMarcus Beasley left the door open (and opened the door for me to be laughed at wearing a Beasley jersey) for a potential equalizer. But as the restaurant owner told me on the way out, “Your keepers always find a way to steal from our best attackers,” an obvious reference to the outstanding match Tim Howard had, and a retrospective of Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel before him who have often times won matches for the US against Mexico, that we otherwise had no business winning. But today was different. We should have won, but the suspect finishing that cost us all Gold Cup long reared its ugly head again today and forced Howard to be the hero.

The funny thing is when the match became 2-1 I had the same reaction as the Mexican fans. Having watched every match in the last ten years between these two nations, I fully expected us to get one or two more counterattacking goals, which we almost did if it had not been for some amazingly suspect finishing. I sensed the Mexicans fans were almost relieved the scoreline didn’t end up 4-1 or 5-1 as it could have, and now they can claim Howard robbed them while their manager Hugo Sanchez blames the officials for his no-call in the 88th minute. This match was wildly entertaining and back home I believe a tape of this match should be sent to the skeptics of the beautiful game. A packed Soldier Field, an intensity unmatched in most American professional sports matches and a wide open, free flowing game, particularly from minutes 30 to 65 would sell skeptics on Soccer, if they were ever willing to give it the time of day.

What was most interesting about my conversations with the Mexican fans however, was the new almost cult hero worship some have developed for Alexi Lalas following his worldwide publicity last week. Most Mexican fans it seems regard English football and the Premiership with contempt. Several fans pointed out to me that the Premiership simply plays a style of football that is incompatible with most of the world. One patron at La Moreno even told me that he felt the EPL was inferior to all of the other big Euro leagues because of the lack of quality Brazilian, Mexican or Italian players in the league. This morning in the center of town one Mexican merchant who spoke perfect English told me that Lalas was dead on with his comments and he felt that both the Mexican Clausura and Major League Soccer are comparable to Premiership. The same man went on to explain to me how the English media is responsible for creating the perception that CONCACAF nations don’t understand football, and that he is concerned by the number of Americans he sees in Cozumel wearing Manchester United, Chelsea or even England jerseys. His theory is that the English media has influenced the American public to turn on its own national team and domestic league in favor of an inferior imported product. In other words, this fellow agreed 100% with Lalas. Another person in broken English told me “Lalas hablar facts es Londres,” which I interpreted to mean Lalas speaks the truth about London, or England. Another fan told me Jared Borgetti, one Mexico’s best ever players was “ruined” by the Premiership that forced him to play a “British game, rather than the way the rest of the world plays.” The same fan told me new LA Galaxy signing Carlos Pavon, a Honduran who once played in Serie A and La Liga is better than any England player other than David Beckham. He went on to mention to me what flops Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Jonathan Woodgate were for his favorite team Real Madrid. He finished by telling me Lalas should replace Sepp Blatter at FIFA, which of course is a absolutely ridiculous suggestion. This fan showed a clear contempt for the English game and everything he feels it represents.

The Premiership is making great strides in popularity both in Asia and the United States. However based on today’s conversations I believe the EPL will NEVER see the light of day in Latin America. An unhealthy does of nativism exists here coupled with some very honest critiques about the style of play (but not the quality) and a new cult hero in Alexi Lalas.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

3 Responses to Mexico’s Pain and New Love for Lalas

  1. Sams Army says:

    First off, I feel the same way. While I detest the Mexican team, I actually enjoy speaking and partying with the Mexican fans.

    Secondly, the Lalas thing doesn’t surprise me. Latinos understand the game and the fraud that is the EPL and most cleverly marketed European based products. As I have tried to say over and over again the Premier League is all smoke and mirrors. A complete fraud which idiots in our nation have bought as some sort of superior product even if it is in fact a completely contrived one.

    In Mexico, the average fan of the game is much more sophisticated so they do not fall for the clever marketing techniques of the EPL and the outright bias and lies perpetuated by Fleet Street. They are discriminating in their football tastes and understand that the English game is an inferior one, that relies solely on long ball tactics, brute physcial force and deception. This is precisely why the English fail in every competition they enter. They do not understand world football and yet give themselves airs as if the game belongs to them and them alone.

    I hope your conversations with these Mexicans convince you Kartik once and for all that the EPL is a fraud. You seem to have smartly been moving in that direction for the past few months. After beginning this site bashing MLS and worshiping the EPL, I think you have gradually come to the same conclusion that Alexi Lalas, the entire nation of Mexico and myself came to years ago. I certainly enjoy this website in its new form, and am glad you have come to see the light on this very important issue.

  2. tyduffy says:

    That is an interesting perspective from the Mexican fans. The only problem is that their vision of how the game should be played is just as narrow minded and isolated as the English.

    The English do not fail in every competition they enter. They are disappointing because their expectations are to win the entire thing.

    If they are a failure, what would you term Spain who has been much worse but allegedly has the best league in the world?

    It is correct to argue that there are problems with the Premiership. When you get out of the Top Four there is a distinct lack of tactical and technical skill and there are some absolutely dreadful matches.

    But, to say that the talent in the MLS is comparable to the Premier League is an absolute joke. It is ludicrous. Any U.S. player who is good enough gets the hell out of the States because even in tiny European leagues they make more money. Juan Pablo Angel is dominating MLS right now when he was absolute rubbish in England last year.

  3. USA2010 says:

    The reason USA has surpassed Mexico as the doninant force in CONCACAF is because we have players that are seasoned in the tougher European leagues.

    Mexicans are no fans of the EPL because their players are not skilled enough to play in it.

    Sams, like Lalas you vaguely call the EPL “inferior”. Inferior is a relative term. What exactly is the EPL inferior to? What fraud are teams like Chelsea and Manchester United perpetuating?

    Get off your nationalistic jingoism, Sams, and realize where players like Feilhaber honed their talent – not in MLS!

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