You may or may not have noticed the US B-team has been getting the living heck kicked out of it during the current Copa America tournament.Trouble is, writes the Guardian’s Steven Wells, the rest of globe’s hotly anticipated gloat-fest rings a bit hallow if Americans aren’t even paying attention.
Last month I wrote how the English desperately want soccer to fail in the US because – given that soccer is the best sport in the world – its failure would mean that we’re still better than America at something. Now imagine that superiority/inferiority complex cubed, baked, dipped in gold and mounted on 100ft tall giant diamond-studded skull stilts. That’s how it feels to be a Mexican soccer fan.
But here’s the rub: Scots/English rivalry is a two-way street. The tragedy for the Mexican fan is that they could beat the US 20-0 every week for a year and most USAians wouldn’t even notice – kinda like the wolf in the Monty Python sketch that’s serenely oblivious to the fact it’s getting its throat torn out by an ant.
During the 2002 World Cup, gringo Brian McManus – who doesn’t care a jot about soccer – was working as a chef in Houston. After the US knocked out Mexico, beating them 2-0, Brian thought it would be terrifically amusing to walk into his kitchen waving a little US flag and chanting “USA! USA!”. His Mexican kitchen staff thought otherwise.
“I thought they’d be like: ‘Ha! Yeah, fuck you!’ They weren’t. They just stared at me. Then one of them walked up and said quietly ‘Take it easy, cabrone’. That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Cabrone is sorta between ‘dude’ and ‘bastard’. When these guys are being friendly they call you cerdo de mierda – fucking pig. Or pequeÃ±a mariposa – little butterfly, implying that you’re gay. So I knew I’d crossed some kinda line.
“Then when Germany beat the US they bought a huge German flag just so they could wave it in my face. Which was kinda confusing.”
At a Chivas USA v LA Galaxy derby, I’m hanging round the parking lot with the Chivas hardcore. This isn’t an international but it might as well be. These guys are rough, tough, jolly types – Mexican and Mexican American construction workers for the most part. The chaps I’m staying with drink Bud Lite for breakfast, swear like troopers and don’t use sun block.
They’re playing soccer, knocking back tequila jelly shots and generally having a good time. Then a buncha suburban gringos in Galaxy shirts roll up. One of them dangles a toy goat – the Chivas symbol – from a homemade noose.
The Chivas stop playing. As one they turn and stare at the gringo. Any sane person with even a scintilla of an idea how seriously Mexicans take soccer would at this point have shat himself. Or at least stop hanging the goat. The gringo doesn’t. He laughs. And makes the goat jerk at the end of the rope.
His evisceration is avoided by the intercession of a Chivas elder who, despite imperfect English, manages to convey to the Galaxy fans that what they’re doing is akin to blasphemy.
“But this is America! We got free speech!” whines one as they’re gently herded away.
Ah yes, cabrone, but that’s kinda missing the point.