The Competitive Side Of U.S.-Mexico Relations

In no other sport is national pride as much at stake as it is in soccer

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The beauty in soccer sometimes lies in the sport's ability to peacefully vent international political angst. Rivalries tend to sprout not from cursed trades or regional competition, but from war crimes and botched policy. England/Argentina has the Falklands, for example. While the speculation leading up to yesterday's World Cup qualifying match between the U.S. and Mexico focused on the game's outcome, writers both inside and outside the sporting world today focused on the bigger picture. What does Mexico's victory mean for its relations with the U.S.?

  • More Than a Game  Tapping into the idea that soccer dominance is all Mexico's got over America, Andres Martinez at the Los Angeles Times predicted that a loss yesterday would have devastated the country, and further widened the gap in the two countries' relations. He also wondered "if Washington's efforts to enact comprehensive immigration reform a few years back might have succeeded if God hadn't invented soccer. The heated soccer rivalry between neighbors is the gift that keeps on giving for anti-immigration crusaders."
  • Mexican Vindication  As the Christian Science Monitor pointed out, Mexico's win "was more than just a step closer to the finals next year. The 2-1 defeat saved face...vindicating Mexico from a list of grievances brought on by its dominating northerly neighbor." And The New York Times captured Mexico's exuberance after their second goal as this: "For a moment, Mexico could forget about its ailing economy, swine flu epidemic and barbarous drug wars. The archrival Americans had been vanquished."
  • U.S. Role in Soccer  Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl added that the game has bigger meaning for the U.S., not politically, but in terms of its role in the soccer world. The defeat, he said, is "a sign that while these Americans are improving on the world stage, they're still not yet at a level where they have the poise and maturity required to slam the door on a quality opponent once it's down."
  • Where's the Patriotism?  Meanwhile The Crossed Pond addressed a deeper issue after watching U.S. troops overseas rooting for Mexico, via a Telemundo webcast. "I was bothered, as American soccer fans tend to be, by the idea of U.S. citizens rooting openly for the failure of their national team," the blogger said. "It seemed to me, however, that serving as active duty military in a combat zone tends to trump support for a soccer team as an indicator of patriotism."

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