Mexicans claim they play REAL football, no hands, not “fut” Americano. That was what fans on both sides of the border watched Sunday night from Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, 90,000 of them in that impressive stadium.
Results? “Empate;” one to one, meaning both teams advance, each getting a point toward final qualifying competition.
The World Cup will be held in 2018, a scant year away, in several cities throughout Russia, finals in Moscow on July 15th. Soccer fanatics of the world are in suspense until then. But also keeping us in suspense will be this question: Who will be Mexico’s new president at that time, chosen on July 5th? And might there be a new president for the U.S., should Trump be impeached, tried, convicted, removed—or resign before such a fate?
About the two teams’ chances: Nate Silver gives Mexico an 83 percent chance of finding themselves in the final rounds. They played well, despite losses of some key players, against the U.S. on Sunday. They, of course, were more used to the altitude and atmosphere of Mexico City.
Mexico City’s air quality has improved and the U.S. team had prepared in higher altitudes in the States. Lead by American Coach Arena, the team depended (too much?) on their teen-age player, Christian Pulisic. The U.S. is now ranked third in North America, behind Mexico and Costa Rica. However, soccer fans know the powerhouses of Germany, Portugal (and others) await, so nothing is guaranteed. Brazil is already guaranteed a spot; Iran and Russia (as host) also. The run-up to Russia will be filled with love, but also with animosity and anxiety.
Looming over the games will be more serious political “games” in both countries. There may be more surprises. In Mexico, as this columnist reported earlier in the Rio Grande Guardian, a new president will be elected, perhaps a socialist. Andrés Manuél Lopéz Obrador (AMLO), who has run twice before, is ahead in current polls. Intellectuals, such as Jorge Casteñeda and Lorenzo Meyer, support a prediction suggesting the “third time is the charm.” But campaigns next Spring will be hard fought.
In the U.S., depending on developments in the White House and the Congress (and within various investigative committees and processes), a new US president (Pence?) could emerge. Vegas is taking bets, laying odds. Partisan lines are quite divided and likely to become more intransigent as time, circumstances and emerging information develop.
Neither set of games depends on the other but the one—soccer and the World Cup—help us to “aguantar” (endure, tolerate) the incessant pressures from the partisan conflicts, both in Mexico and in the U.S. I can’t even say in which country the pain and fear are greater. But one thing is certain, the cause, at least helping to explain Mexico’s angst, has been Trump and his anti-Mexican rhetoric.
Love AMLO or hate him (and, oh, he is thoroughly hated by many upper class elites), his ratings comes chiefly from the Mexican nationalistic response to Trump’s racism, xenophobia, from his short-sighted (and false) economic posturing. But Mexican political parties play rough and many scurrilous rumors and suspicious videos abound, attempting to discredit the front-runner. In a way, previously, AMLO was the “Trump” of Mexico, bragging and posturing. He has calmed down and may pull out the win. Trump supporters here will not be happy of results their hero has created in Mexico.
Another warning is advisable: over-heated rhetoric against Russia, where the final soccer games are to be played, will not be helpful. Both Mexico and the US have reason to support free speech as they attempt to push back against violence and corruption; neither country supports Putin in his anti-journalist, anti-free speech mode.
Of course, we must expose and punish greedy speculators in U.S. government who played footsie with Russia, or the near-treasonous who lied or colluded. But, international stability demands we maintain formal, mutually beneficial relations with Russia. Perhaps Trump might feel more comfortable and, therefore, prefer to stay in Russia, should he still be in office in a year. Barring that event, the World Cup is a great opportunity to compete in non-violent ways. We’ll root for Mexico should the U.S. not prevail.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this guest column show an artist’s impression of the new Yekaterinburg Stadium in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The capacity of the stadium will be 45,130. Yekaterinburg Stadium is one of 12 venues in 11 host cities for the 2017 World Cup.