(By Gregory Tejada)
Mexico 2, France 0
(Not in) POLOKWANE, South Africa – Could it be that we have found the sound that can drown out the vuvuzela?
It seems we have, and that “sound” is none other than the fanàtico futbol Mexicano.
At least that was the impression I got after watching Thursday while Mexico played France to a 2-0 win in World Cup play.
Both teams were desperate for a victory if they were to hope to have a serious chance to advance in the international tournament. Defeat today amounts to a virtual guarantee that play ends for them after the final game in group play scheduled for Tuesday.
The crowd at Peter Mokaba Stadium seemed to be Mexican-leaning (and not just because of the guy wearing his Chespirito costume), and not just because the singing of Mexicanos Al Grito de Guerra (the national anthem) came off as much louder and enthusiastic than those singing the famed French anthem La Marseillaise.
It literally seemed like the boos of the officials when they ruled against Mexico drowned out the buzz of those stupid horns (although I honestly believe the vuvuzela isn’t any more obnoxious than the constant clap of ThunderStix that one often hears coming from the crowd at U.S. sports events).
It felt like a home match for El Tri.
Come the second half of the match, the Mexican national futbol club produced – although at times it seemed like the score should have been run up more because the French at times seemed to be napping.
It wasn’t until the 63rd minute that Javier Hernandez gave Mexico the lead (even though Las Francesas will probably insist forevermore that Hernandez was offside), and gave every Mexican-American (no matter how serious they take the game) a jolt of excitement – particularly in these times when the ethnic tensions in our society seem to be focused on those people who have a hangup about the fact that the Latino population of the United States is growing so much.
Legendary player Cuauhtemoc Blanco (he’s 37) managing to get a second goal off a penalty kick around the 79th minute was just an added bonus, one that will probably cause many nativists to make ridiculous claims about how little the World Cup means (they’d probably rather watch NASCAR auto racing).
It can be nervewracking being a fan in the United States of Mexican futbol, knowing that some people will consider that interest in the birthplace of my grandparents to be a subversive act in and of itself.
I have known some serious soccer fans who think of themselves as cosmopolitan and sophisticated who will openly admit they root against Latin American teams because they’d rather have a “more European” flavor to the World Cup finals.
Which is why it can be nervewracking in those moments when El Tri decides to play down to the level of their most loud-mouthed critics. And also what makes Thursday’s sporting victory all the more pleasurable to those of us of Mexican ethnic backgrounds living in this country.
So excuse me for thinking how wonderful it would be if Mexico and Uruguay could be the national teams that advance from Group A – despite the early rhetoric of those “experts” who were convinced that France would have to win, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if South Africa could also advance?
Mexico’s victory on Thursday (which apparently was France’s first loss in World Cup play ever to a team from North America) put an end to that fantasy. And it wasn’t just the very vocal Mexican soccer fans sitting in the stands who were able to enjoy the moment.