FOX Sports Insider
With the World Cup group stage being a frenetic whirlwind of activity – 48 matches over 13 days featuring the biggest names and teams in football – there are all sorts of burning questions at the moment.
But there’s only one, for fans across the United States, that’s guaranteed to spark a heated debate, flawlessly, every time.
Is it okay to root for Mexico as well?
In virtually any other country on the planet, the answer about backing your nation’s rival would be a resounding and resounding “no.” Giving any kind of affection to your fiercest enemy would be totally unthinkable in Europe or South America, where the tribalities of football run deep and historic.
However, the unique geographic and societal relationship between the United States and Mexico, and in particular the impact of Mexican culture on the development of American football, adds a whole new layer to the discussion.
Mexico’s national anthem before the opening match
Hear Mexico’s national anthem ahead of their group stage match with Poland.
For Landon Donovan, it’s not even a discussion.
Of all the people you think would want Mexico to lose — El Tri face Argentina in a crucial Group C showdown on Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app) — Donovan could top the list . He was the player Mexican fans loved to hate, after his memorable goal for the Americans in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16 and being America’s top player for much of his career.
But this is not the case.
Donovan took part in an advertising campaign for Wells Fargo during the 2018 World Cup holding a scarf that read “My other team is Mexico”. He received quite a backlash for it at the time. But he’s unwavering in his belief, and hearing him say his point, it starts to make sense.
“I wouldn’t be the player I was without the Mexican soccer culture,” Donovan told me. “All the kids I grew up playing with in Southern California were Mexican-American, which is why I learned to speak Spanish. The way they played, the passion for the game. It had so much contributed to the growth of American football.
“I’m fine if people could never want a rival country to succeed, and I understand that. But it’s also OK if you do, if you have a second team or cheer someone else on when he I think especially for American fans who also have a family connection to Mexico or have had some sort of experience like me, for some of them it’s a natural thing to do.”
The strengths of Mexico
Will Mexico come out of their group, as usual? The “FIFA World Cup Now” team discusses.
In 2018, I disagreed with his point of view. I didn’t see how it was possible to be a real fan of a team and also have any love for your rival. I’ve since changed my mind, mostly because I’ve talked to people like Donovan and fans, and heard their stories.
Los Angeles-based sports physician Dr. Daniel Diaz grew up in a Mexican-American family in Pasadena, Calif., and has shared loyalties at this World Cup.
“It’s like having two kids,” Diaz told me over the phone. “You love a child, and when another is born, you wonder if you’re going to have to share your love. Of course you don’t love him, you love them both.
“Some of my hardcore friends in the Mexican national team laugh at me, but the United States is obviously part of me and who I am too. If I stopped supporting any of the teams, it would be like giving up. part of me.”
Diaz grew up following Mexican soccer and boxing with family members. His affinity for Team USA came from USMNT legend Cobi Jones. After the Los Angeles Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl in the inaugural MLS season in 1996, Jones would stop by to chat and hang out with locals and fans in the parking lot, and it made a big impression on Diaz. , then in college.
“It was the start for me to look more to the United States, hoping they do well,” Diaz said. “Being a fan of both really makes the World Cup special. You have at least six games that are close to your heart.”
Admittedly, it’s much less common in Mexico to find someone who wants the United States to do well. South of the border there is an older, more traditional football culture, while the United States has developed its own football identity, with its own set of customs. It’s one of them, no matter what outsiders think.
Also, naturally, the United States national team has a hard-core fan base who would never dream of supporting Mexico, and that’s fine too.
Realistically, it’s hard to imagine many of the loudest members of the American Outlaws, the group of passionate fans who follow Gregg Berhalter’s men, well, everywhere, smearing green paint on the cheeks of si early, even if Mexico were to go on a deep run.
When Donovan played qualifying matches at the famous Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, he was regularly booed every time he touched the ball. Fans were banging on the side of the USA team bus as it drove to the stadium and camped outside the USA hotel the night before to try and disturb their sleep.
But Donovan says despite all the vitriol that has been directed at him on the pitch, away from football, it’s very different.
“Let me tell you, I’ve never had a bad interaction with a Mexican fan I’ve met, and I meet them all the time,” said Donovan, who lives near the Mexican border in San Diego. , in California. “They love the game, they are always extremely respectful and happy to meet you. The United States has amazing football fans, and it’s my country, and I love it very much.
“But I’m grateful for this football connection between the two countries. Rivalry makes both teams better. And if you want to cheer on Mexico when the United States aren’t playing, or vice versa, no one should feel bad about that. topic.”
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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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