Futbol, as Mexicans call soccer, is a passionate business south of the border. It’s the country’s most popular sport by a country mile and fans love to have their say when things aren’t going well.
This week, Mexican fans vented their fury at the coach of the national team, Juan Carlos Osorio of Colombia, after “El Tri” were booted out of the regional Copa del Oro at the semi-final stage at the hands of minnows Jamaica, no less.
This biannual tournament usually sees the region’s two strongest and top-seeded teams – Mexico and the United States – reach the final with relative ease.
Not this year, however.
While the United States breezed into Wednesday’s final comfortably, Mexico were poleaxed by a stunning last-minute free kick goal by a dogged Jamaican team.
The form book was reestablished when the United States went on to beat Jamaica in the final, 2-1, on Wednesday. By then, the Mexican squad had already returned home, tails between their legs to face the wrath of a frenzied public.
Unfortunately, the scenes that greeted the team’s arrival at the Mexico City airport were shocking. Coach Osorio was forced to walk through a gauntlet of rabid fans, many of whom yelled at him to “go back to your country.”
The televised images outraged many commentators and players, since Mexico had not fielded their strongest team in the competition. Most of the team’s players on the rosters of foreign clubs were excused duty and allowed to continue their summer vacations.
Idolized Guadalajara native and striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Mexico’s record goal scorer), who has just signed a contract to play next season for West Ham United in England’s Premier League and did not appear in the Copa Orto, was unimpressed. “It made me embarrassed, angry and more than that really sad,” he posted on Twitter, “We honestly have to learn a lot … it’s not possible that a sport makes us behave and react like this.”
Pancho Villa’s Army, a group of voluble Mexican supporters based in the United States, were equally furious. “The videos are repulsive in every sense of the word. As millions of us fight for our place the United States and across the world, often discriminated against, we should understand that the “Regrésate a tu pais” comments are wrong. It’s ok to be upset at the results, it’s ok to questions the tactics, it’s ok to ask for a new coach. It is not ok to encourage racism and xenophobia.”