Columbus (AFP) – United States captain Michael Bradley says he expects the team’s supporters to show respect to Mexican fans in Friday’s World Cup qualifier which comes in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential vote.
Trump’s controversial rhetoric about Mexican illegal immigrants during the campaign adds to the already strong rivalry between the two nations on the football field, but Bradley said he hopes that won’t be a factor at the stadium.
“I would hope our fans do what they always do, which is support our team in the best, most passionate way possible. I would hope they give every person in that stadium the respect they deserve, whether they are American, Mexican, neutral,” Bradley told reporters ahead of training on Wednesday, just hours after Trump’s acceptance speech.
“I hope every person that comes to the stadium comes ready to enjoy what we all want to be a beautiful game between two sporting rivals that have a lot of respect for each other, and hope that it’s a special night in every way,” added Bradley, whose father Bob is manager of English Premier League club Swansea City.
Trump’s victory could resound further through football in America if his election affects US chances of mounting a successful bid for the 2026 World Cup.
The US has been considered a frontrunner for the 2026 tournament even before formally announcing a bid, but USA Soccer president Sunil Gulati told USA Today in June that such a bid would be aided by “having somebody in the White House that gives the country an outward-looking view”.
Whether Trump could win over FIFA voters remains to be seen when campaigning starts in the New Year, with a decision due in 2020.
In the meantime, US goalkeeper Tim Howard said he expected the excitement around Friday’s game to be purely sporting.
– Sport not politics –
“They (the fans) are going to be excited hopefully for a US win. It’s politics and this is football. Mexico is going to try to kick our asses and we’re going to try to kick theirs. It’s got nothing to do with politics,” he said.
Howard said he had not voted but had he placed a ballot it would not have been for Trump.
While Bradley did not indicate where his vote had gone but spoke carefully about the mood after the vote.
“Given the way everything has gone in the last few months, there is an added layer to this game, but my general feeling is that we, as Americans, trust our system, we respect our democracy and, regardless of your beliefs, regardless of how you voted, we have an obligation to come together, get behind our new president and to have faith and trust that he will do what’s best for the entire country,” he said.
“That’s what we’ve always done and, in moments like this, it’s easy to question things, but again, this is what makes our country great – the fact that we have our system where every American can go and vote.
“The results may not be what every person wanted — some people are happy, others aren’t — but the way forward is to come together and give our new president support and rally behind him,” said Bradley who added he had stayed up late watching the election unfold on television.
“The whole thing has been incredibly captivating. I followed it closely,” added Bradley who plays in Major League Soccer for Canadian club Toronto FC.
The US has played Mexico in Columbus in the last four World Cup qualifying cycles, winning 2-0 on each occasion.
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