Cross Border Thoughts: Mexico and Canada
I understand this is a website dedicated to MLS and US Soccer, but please indulge me in this moment of personal privilege about our neighbors to the south and our neighbors to the north.
Guille Franco opened his Premier League account yesterday, playing for a less competitive West Ham side than former Mexican striker Jared Borgetti did in Bolton a few years back. I bring this subject up, because Franco has been the subject of much racist hatred in Mexico since Ricardo LaVolpe brought him into the national team in 2004. Franco, from where I sit was one of the best Mexican players in the later part of LaVolpe’s reign but the fact that like his manager, he was born in Argentina caused anger and showed the worst sort of nativism among certain parts of the Mexican fan base and press.
Hugo Sanchez, upon assuming the job in the wake of LaVolpe’s sacking pledged not to select any naturalized players. Thus, Franco was not considered again for the squad until Sven Goran Eriksson was the manager, and did not again play a key role until Javier Aguirre took over this spring. Aguirre’s knowledge of Franco was less based on his play for Monterrey in the Mexican League in the earlier part of this decade, but his play with Villarreal, whom Aguirre managed against several times in Champions League deciding fixtures with Athletico Madrid.
Mexican Football isn’t regarded with the respect it should be in England. Jared Borgetti, who ironically enough, very openly poured scorn on Sven Goran Eriksson decision to feature naturalized players, was considered a first rate flop at Bolton. Borgetti’s failures furthered the already negative perception surrounding Mexican footballers in England.
How ironic that Guille Franco, who many El Tri supporters would not claim as one of their own could well be on his way to changing that perception for good, and allowing more opportunities for the likes of Carlos Vela and Gio Dos Santos who are already on EPL squads to flourish. Franco appears to be well on his way to undoing the negative stigma that Borgetti helped to further in England.
Racism and Xenophobia are somewhat rampant in Mexico, whether Mexicans want to admit it or not. Guille Franco, from where I sit, is an incredible person to have put up with the abuse while representing El Tri and still been willing to embrace Mexican culture and Mexico as a nation. He deserves to be seen back home as a conquering hero following his goal yesterday at the Stadium of Light.
Today’s playoff Superclassico has me, like so many others super psyched. But given what I have written above, I worry about the potential racial and ethnic connotations of such a matchup, and such a derby. Rangers v Celtic, and Hibs vs Hearts type ethnic, religious or racial divisions aren’t what America is about. It was in this context that the NASL was very strict in not allowing ethnic named teams into the league, with the (reluctant) exception of the Toronto Metros-Croatia.
I urge everyone attending the match today to cheer for your side, but please don’t make it about us (Galaxy-Gringos or non Mexican Latinos) versus them (Chivas- Mexicans). If that sort of factionalism develops, the game and MLS loses.
The United Soccer Leagues announced on Thursday that they will be opening a Canadian office in Ottawa. The USL headquarters is in Tampa, but with over two dozen Canadian sides competing in USL leagues, the move makes sense from a USL perspective.
However, I regret to once again raise the issue of FIFA sanctioning and cross border leagues. While USL is sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association, the two USL First Division clubs in Canada recently approached the USSF to help mediate the dispute they and other members of the Team Owners Association is having with the league.
USL’s official administrative foray into Canada could further render the CSA and the Canadian Soccer League totally useless. While some posters here will claim that Wales, Monaco, Liechtenstein, New Zealand and others all fall under the same category as Canada does in its participation in foreign leagues, the extent of Canadian influence on MLS and USL, the two US based professional leagues is without precedent on the planet.
I have outlined these issues before and quite frankly do not have the patience again to outline the numerous reasons MLS, USL, and the Canadian based clubs appear to be skirting FIFA regulations on this matter.
Let me state this clearly. I am all for Canadian participation in MLS and USL. I believe the achievements of TFC, the Whitecaps, the Impact and several PDL clubs in Canada speak for themselves. But my worry about the legality of the continued cross border merger of football, and the failure of FIFA regulations to be properly enforced (for example, the three Canadian teams in USL and MLS should NOT be eligible to represent Canada in international competitions unless the CSA drops its sanctioning of the CSL) could lead to more trouble down the road if FIFA under new leadership, suddenly decides they want to crack down.