Skip to comments.The U.S. Is Vanquished by Taunts and Mexico
Posted on 02/11/2004 1:00:04 AM PST by sarcasm
UADALAJARA, Mexico, Feb. 10 Few of the young Americans had experienced such grown-up soccer antagonism, with blowing horns creating the sound of a throbbing hive at Jalisco Stadium and 60,000 people jeering with the sting of hostility.
The shouted vulgarities began as the United States under-23 team appeared for warm-ups on Tuesday night. The name of each starter was heckled with collective booing. The national anthem was derided with shrieking whistles. The Mexican team, meanwhile, was greeted with fluttering confetti, waving flags and the urgent rhythm of drumbeats.
In the 26th minute, the throng began chanting "Osama! Osama!" at the Americans, but they appeared inured to such taunting and eager for a game of beautiful desperation in an attempt to reach the Olympics. And then, out of nowhere, it all fell apart. Defense had become a vulnerability for the United States in this qualifying tournament, and its opponent deftly pounced on this weakness.
In the 27th minute, Mexico strung together five passes and Rafael Marquez Rugo slammed a point-blank header into the net. A minute later, an unmarked Diego Martínez, who had assisted on the first goal, fired another cross from the right flank that floated into the upper-left corner. Marquez Rugo scored again on a rebound in the 55th minute. Ismael Iniguez completed the scoring in added time for a 4-0 Mexican rout and a trip to the Summer Olympics in Athens.
Joining Mexico as the other Olympic representative from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region will be Costa Rica, which defeated Honduras, 2-0, earlier Tuesday.
The victory carried a whiff of retribution and restored immense national pride to Mexico beyond a berth in the Olympics. After once not losing for four decades to the United States senior national team, Mexico had recently surrendered its soccer dominance in the region, gaining only a victory and a tie in the past seven matches against the United States. A 2-0 victory by the United States at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea was particularly humiliating for this country, where passion for soccer amounts to a secular religion.
Meanwhile, Tuesday's embarrassing defeat for the Americans interrupted their steady maturation in the sport and removed yet another medal possibility for the United States at the Athens Olympics. The under-23 team finished fourth at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and had qualified for every Summer Games since 1980, when a boycott scuttled participation. The United States baseball team had failed to qualify for Athens, and a couple of high-profile track stars could face bans after testing positive for the steroid THG.
Here in Mexico's second-largest city, Tuesday's match was greeted with anticipation, confidence and dread. "I think we are afraid to play the Americans," said Luis Antonio Carmona, who works at the reception desk at the hotel where the United States team stayed. "They have beaten us four times in a row."
Yet, a taxi driver ferrying a visitor was certain that Mexico would secure a crushing victory, 3-0. At the hotel, several visitors who came to eat and shop at lunchtime proudly wore the green jerseys of the Mexican national team. Five hours before the match, a vendor stood on a corner near the hotel, hawking a handful of tricolored Mexican flags. A festive atmosphere existed outside Jalisco Stadium, where music blared and vendors sold jerseys, flags, tacos, candies and beer.
"Soccer is our national sport," Carlos Placencia, 21, a publicist, said. "We cannot let the Americans beat us at our game."
Diego Gonzáles, 23, a graphic designer, said it would be important for the collective Mexican self-assurance to defeat the bigger, richer country to the north.
"This game is a way to show them that we can win," Gonzáles said. "It doesn't matter if it is the United States or another country. We need to show what Mexicans are made of."
Both Placencia and Gonzáles said that anti-American chants of "Osama! Osama!" were meant in large part as a joke, even if a tasteless one.
"We make fun of everything," Gonzáles said. More seriously, he added: "We think the United States exaggerated its reaction about terrorism and security measures. We criticize the reasons why America goes to war."
In case emotions spilled into violence on Tuesday, Mexican authorities stationed 140 police officers inside Jalisco Stadium, some with riot helmets and shields, while another 20 officers patroled outside. Matches are always tense between these teams, for reasons real or manufactured.
Reports on local radio and on the Internet accused Landon Donovan, the star United States forward, of urinating on the field during training on Monday. The United States strongly denied the accusation.
"That's just got to be to rile up the fans," Bryan Chenault, a spokesman for the United States team, said. "It's completely false. No way Landon would be that disrespectful."
Donovan had instructed his teammates to disconnect their phones at night, lest reporters call or fans try to bother them with midnight gamesmanship. Locals were still hurt by a 3-1 exhibition defeat last May 14 to the United States under-23 team, which closed the match by scoring on a freakish 85-yard kick by David Testo. The United States players had to shield themselves as they left the field while spectators spit on them and hurled beer bottles and racial epithets.
"That was pretty ugly," Chenault said. "We ended up writing a formal letter to the Mexican federation to complain about behavior that was beyond what you would expect for a friendly."
Tuesday night, though, the match was not yet a third complete when residual enmity had largely faded into a thronging celebration of redemption. Sing and do not cry, the home crowd sang, because our hearts are joyful.
It's the Olympic rules because the world soccer regulating federation, FIFA, doesn't want the Olympic tournamnet to be a bigger tournament in stature than the World Cup.
Hmmmm, I thought it was the desert marathon.
But after the game, they will have to return to their homes... in mexico. Unless they have enough new "self-assurance" to sneak into the U.S.A.
"We need to show what Mexicans are made of."
I think we already know.
"...anti-American chants of "Osama! Osama!..."
Is that the best heckling they can do? Here in Detroit, Red Wings fans are calling for the decapitated head of Col. Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote to roll around on the Joe Louis Arena ice this Saturday in response for Footes stick to the face of Detroit center Steve Yzerman. When the mexis start demanding beheadings, then they can call themselves real sports fans. I'd like to see them at a road game in Philly.
I thought it was the Fully-Loaded Pamper Toss.
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