FOX Sports Insider
With the World Cup group stage being a frenetic whirlwind of activity (48 matches over 13 days featuring the biggest names and teams football has to offer), there are all sorts of burning questions right now.
But there’s only one, for America fans, that’s sure to spark a heated debate, without fail, every time.
Is it okay to root for Mexico too?
In virtually any other country on the planet, the answer to supporting your nation’s rival would be a firm and resounding “no.” Giving your worst enemy any kind of affection would be completely unthinkable in Europe or South America, where football’s tribalism runs deep and historic.
However, the uniqueness of the geographic and social relationship between the US and Mexico, and especially the impact that Mexican culture has had on the development of American football, adds a new layer to the discussion.
National Anthem of Mexico before the inauguration
Check out Mexico’s national anthem ahead of their group stage clash with Poland.
For Landon Donovan, it’s not even a discussion.
Of all the people you might think would want Mexico to lose: El Tri faces Argentina in a crucial Group C matchup on Saturday (2 p.m. ET on FS1 and the FOX Sports app), Donovan might be at the helm of the list He was the player Mexican fans loved to hate, after his memorable goal for the Americans in the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup and his status as the USA’s best player for much of his career.
But it is not so.
Donovan participated in an advertising campaign for Wells Fargo during the 2018 World Cup wearing a scarf that read “My other team is Mexico.” He got a lot of backlash for it at the time. But he is firm in his conviction, and to hear him tell his side, it starts to make sense.
“I wouldn’t be anything like the player I was without the Mexican soccer culture,” Donovan told me. “All the kids I grew up playing with in Southern California were Mexican-American, so I learned to speak Spanish. The way they play, the passion for the game. It’s contributed a lot to the growth of American football.
“I’m fine if people would never want a rival country to do well, and I understand that. But it’s also fine if you do, if you have a second team or cheer someone else on when they’re playing. I think especially for American fans who they also have a family connection to Mexico or have had some kind of experience like me, for some of them it’s just natural.”
The strengths of Mexico
Will Mexico get out of their group, as usual? The ‘FIFA World Cup Now’ crew talks.
In 2018, I wasn’t on board with his point of view. I didn’t see how it was possible to be a true fan of a team and also have any kind of love for their rival. I’ve since changed my mind, mostly because of talking to people like Donovan and fans, and hearing their stories.
Dr. Daniel Diaz, a sports physician based in Los Angeles, grew up in a Mexican-American household in Pasadena, California, and has joint allegiances at this World Cup.
“It’s like having two kids,” Diaz told me over the phone. “You love one child, and when another is born you wonder if you will have to divide your love. Of course not, you love them both.
“Some of my staunchest friends on the Mexico national team make fun of me, but the United States is obviously a part of me and so am I. If I stopped supporting one of the teams it would be like giving up a part of me. same”.
Diaz grew up following Mexican soccer and boxing along with members of his family. His affinity for the American team came through USMNT legend Cobi Jones. After Los Angeles Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl in the inaugural MLS season in 1996, Jones stopped to chat and hang out with locals and fans in the parking lot, making a big impression on Diaz , then in high school.
“That was the beginning of me looking more towards the US, hoping they would do well,” Diaz said. “Being a fan of both, it really makes the World Cup special. You have at least six games that you really care about.”
It’s true that it’s much less common in Mexico to find someone who wants the United States to do well. South of the border there is a more traditional and established soccer culture, while the USA has developed its own soccer identity, with its own set of customs. This is one of them, no matter what people abroad think.
Plus, naturally, the U.S. national team has a die-hard element among its fans that would never dream of rooting for Mexico, and that’s okay, too.
Realistically, it’s hard to imagine many of the loudest members of the American Outlaws, the passionate group of fans that follow Gregg Berhalter’s men, well, everywhere, sprinkling green paint on their cheeks any time soon, until and all if Mexico were to make a deep run. .
When Donovan played qualifiers at Mexico City’s famed Azteca Stadium, he was routinely booed every time he touched the ball. Fans banged on the side of the U.S. team bus as it headed to the stadium and camped outside the U.S. hotel the night before in an attempt to disrupt their sleep.
But Donovan says for all the vitriol directed at him on the field, away from football it’s very different.
“Let me tell you, I’ve never had a bad interaction with a Mexico fan that I’ve met, and I run into them all the time,” said Donovan, who lives near the Mexican border in San Diego, California. . game, they are always extremely respectful and happy to meet you. America has amazing soccer fans, it’s my country, and I love it so much.
“But I’m grateful for this soccer connection that the two countries have. The rivalry makes both teams better. And if you want to cheer for Mexico when the U.S. isn’t playing, or vice versa, no one should feel bad about that.” .
Read more from the World Cup:
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX i subscribe to the daily newsletter.
Get more from FIFA World Cup 2022 Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more