Monthly Archives: June 2011

Good Lookin’ Out: New inductee to Mexican goalies list

After this month’s performance, I feel inclined to add Alfredo Talavera Díaz onto the roster of good-looking Mexican goalies.  Of course, how they fare on the field isn’t a factor for entry into my super scientific list.  But in this case, it helped out his cause.  It’s not like I spend every weekend watching Toluca games on Galavision.

Talavera played five games, coming into the Gold Cup tournament after starter Memo Ochoa was suspended for testing positive for clenbuterol.  <<But let’s back up.  He was originally the third goalie after Ochoa and Chuy Corona of Cruz Azul.  He moved up to second only when Corona’s invitation was rescinded.  So it seems headbutting an opposing trainer is frowned upon.>>

In the last five games — which included two group, a quarter, semis and finals — Talavera ceded four goals to opposing teams.  One was a fluke shot from Guatemala in the quarterfinals that came early on in the game.  Instead of berating his defense, he patted them on the back and Mexico went on the attack for the next 85 minutes.

He showed the same grace under fire in the finals against the U.S.  The stars-and-stripes came out to an early 2-0 lead.  But again, pat the guys on the back, tell them its OK and make sure you keep them in the game by not allowing any more goals.

And in the end, you win the ultimate prize. Take a bow and welcome to the club.

PHOTOS from top: Alfredo Talavera receiving prize for best goalie of Mexico’s 2010 Bicentennial Tournament; Talavera training during the 2011 Gold Cup tournament, which ended Saturday with Mexico’s victory over the U.S.

Mexico wins World Cup. Why the hell not?

Chícharito! You’ve just won your first Cup victory with El Tri, taken the MVP award and the golden boot to boot. What are you going to do now?

Maybe he won’t go to Disneyland… but he was in Southern California this weekend. It’s not a far detour.

Though he didn’t score any goals in the final match against the USA, he did score seven of Mexico’s 22 goals throughout the tournament.

Like he said in an Univision video (at 58 seconds): “Aquí lo que importa es que ganamos, aquí no importa quien meta los goles… al contrario, [importa] quien está ahí para poder apoyar ya sea dentro o fuera de la cancha.”

Translation: What matters here is that we won, not who scored the goals. On the contrary, what matters is who is there to be able to support either on or off the field.

Gold Cup is now in the rear view. On the horizon, Sub-17 World Cup, Women’s World Cup, Copa America and Brazil 2014. Yo Chícharito, do you think México will take that Big Cup?

¿y por qué no?

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What’s with all the drama queens?

CONCACAF — in all its iterations and manifestations — is nothing but a teenage drama queen.

Why can’t I just focus on the somewhat mediocre play — highlighted by Mexican brilliance — and be done with it? But nooooo, they just have to throw salt all up in my Gold Cup cheerios.

The 2011 Gold Cup just ended in spectacular fashion this weekend in front of a record 93,420 crowd at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. Yeah, most fans were pro-Mexico. That’s a given. Even if the final had not been between Mexico and the U.S., most of the fans would be pro-Mexico. It’s just the nature of the game, the location, the fans, the chance to be on Univision… The stars and stripes had no chance to cash in on a home-field advange (Drama #1).

But Mexico did make it — unbeaten and as the heavy favorite. Even without five of their original players who earlier tested positive for banned clenbuterol (Drama #2).

Alas, they fell behind (Drama #3). But you know what shuts up a a small USA-rooting minority in the stands? 90,000 fans drowning them out when the opposing team erases any advantage before the end of the first half (Drama #4)…

… Taking the lead in the 50th minute (Drama #5) and running circles around a fallen goalie for the cherry-on-top comeback (Drama #6).

Ok, some of the drama is good. All of it really. That’s what makes these games great fun to watch. That’s why, as a Mexico fan, you don’t leave the stands and try to beat the traffic when your team is down 0-2. That’s why you DVR the game even though you’re watching it from Section 13 of the Rose Bowl.

Enter Drama #7:  Tim Howard calling the mostly Spanish closing ceremony a “fucking disgrace.” Did he ever consider it being just “fucking practical” (See Drama #1)?

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not going to get into what Timmy said, what he meant, if it’s right, if it’s racist.

Once you’ve peeled away all this drama, I hope you’ll see that this was an amazing game. Such resolve on both ends of the field.

CONCACAF has been faulted in the past for many things, not least of which that it really only has two dominant teams. The level of competition — looking at you, Cuba… sorry — isn’t that high. So winning the Gold Cup shouldn’t have been that difficult to do for either Mexico or the U.S.

Honestly, what this win is more than anything… is a ticket to the Confederations Cup in Brazil in 2013, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup!

PHOTO: Andres Guardado, Gio dos Santos, Chicharito celebrate during the final ceremony at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (Getty Images)

 

The view from the bottom of American sports hierarchy

Yesterday, I traveled to visit a friend. I told him we could go wherever he wanted, but my one condition was that I needed to watch the Mexico/Costa Rica game.

We ended up at an “interesting” joint called Tilted Kilt, a place with dozens of televisions and two large screen projectors on both ends of the pub. A total of five t.v.s weren’t dedicated to the NBA Finals. I had to ask to get the game on one of them.

This photo completely captures the sporting hierarchy. HUGE basketball game and TINY little Gio Dos Santos. Nobody really cared that Mexico clobbered their former coach, embarrassed Costa Rica 4-1 and were the definitive winners in Group stage amassing a total 14 goals in three games.

Plus, the tv was so far away, I had to squint most of the time to see what was going on. Damn near-sightedness!! I missed half the goals too splitting my attention.Thank god for instant replays!

And then some idiots sat down at that empty table in front of the screen and changed my tiny t.v. Really?!! Dozens of televisions devoted to the playoffs and you needed that one too. Ridiculous.

We ended up getting a different tv changed back to the game. But, still… no respect.

Now that Dallas won, it might be a little easier to get pubs to give up a screen or two.

Another shot of our viewing selection:


PHOTOS: captured by my phone. Apologies for their crappy state.

NBA keeps stealing Mexico’s thunder

 

Who would you rather watch? A guy that hasn’t lived up the hype or a guy who surpassed it in the first 90 minutes of play??

I get that I live in a country where football needs a qualifying adjective for most people to understand me. I get that the NBA season is wrapping up  with two teams furiously battling it out with very little breathing room. And I get that one of those teams is the Miami Heat and all eyes are on LeBron and what he can do and what he hasn’t done in consecutive 4th quarters.

What I don’t get is a world que se empeña en atormentarme!

I am a basketball fan, to be sure. But nothing — not LeBron’s holy grail quest for a ring or Dirk’s — will trump my erratic, passionate, oblivious, fervent, zealous, TORMENTED regard for El Tri.

Apparently, the Powers That Be kept forcing me into a Sofia‘s choice: basketball playoffs or international soccer tourney.

ARGHH… I choose Gold Cup.

Every two years teams from North America and the Caribbean play for a shot at the Gold Cup. Mexico entered as a favorite and defending champion. It kicked off Sunday, June 5.

Mexico played against El Salvador in the second game that day. It started at 5 p.m. PST.

Oh, but guess what else was scheduled to start at that EXACT SAME TIME?? Game 3 — the one where Miami won by 2 points.

Fast forward a few days and Mexico is due to play its second group game. This time it’s against Cuba. What time did you say that was again? The EXACT SAME TIME as Game 5 — the one where Dallas finally pulled ahead and LeBron scored a whopping 2 points in the fourth quarter.

Not even the blaring headlines that preceded Mexico’s game were enough to turn a dedicated spotlight off the finals. Mexico played without five players  — including Memo Ochoa and Maza Rodriguez — because they tested positive for banned clenbuterol. The claim a la Contador is tainted meat. I’ll reserve judgment (sidenote: the players came to my UCLA today for further tests…fingers crossed)… but come on!!! No one that wasn’t already covering the game gave a flying F about this scandal!!

Whatever…

Mexico ended up beating up on the poor Cubans and won 5-0. For those not looking (and I assume that’s practically everyone), that’s two wins, six points, +10 goal differential and a top spot in Group A. And five goals for Chicharito. That includes a freaking hat trick in the first game!

This guy’s on fire. All eyes are on him and he has continued to impress. Is the same true of another?

Up next for Mexico is Costa Rica, the results of this tainted-beef defense, and the drama of continuing as a “heavy favorite” with a bare-bones roster. This is Must-See Stuff, people!

If you’re interested in watching, it’s really simple to remember. They play this Sunday at 5 p.m., aka the EXACT SAME TIME as the NBA’s all-or-nothing, last-chance for King James Game 6.

PHOTO: LeBron James vs. Chicharito faceoff

Prayers, yes; Headscarves, no

Having stayed out of it long enough, here’s my two cents on Fifa v. the hijab.

The facts: the Iran women’s soccer team was disqualified minutes before their match against Jordan. An official said their headscarves were not permitted under FIFA rules, a decision the soccer-ruling body later agreed with. The game was a qualifier for the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Here’s my interpretation.

As a safety concern, it makes total sense. Soccer is a physical sport that uses every part of the body (save hands if you’re not goalie) to control and pass the ball. There’s a fair bit of tugging, elbows, pull-downs, flips in the air and good ol’ fashioned faking falls. So a rule that doesn’t permit covering necks and ears has some bit of logic behind it.

But FIFA has also declared that there will be no religious or political displays on the approx. 100 yards between goals. Brazilians were told not to wear their “I heart Jesus” shirts under their jerseys. An Englishman was fined because he had a three-line message of congratulations and well wishes for Will and Kate. That was deemed political.

But to my knowledge, no one was fined and no fingers were wagged last summer when Spain won the World Cup and a couple players–Puyol and Xavi, both FC Barca players–started waving the Catalan flag. Is that not political?

As a safety measure, I agree with FIFA that rules should be in place to protect players. Making modifications to women’s headscarves that both comply with safety requirements and are accepted by the people wearing them is a good step.

But FIFA waded into some quicksand with blanket statements regarding politics and religion without properly thinking it through. Worse yet, they’ve left them up to ad-hoc decisions, which seems even more ridiculous. Have some order here!

Was the the intent to strip away potentially offensive distractions? I get it, games are cardio for fans too. Heartbeats rise. Blood-alcohol levels rise. Tempers flare. People have come to blows, bows and bludgeons. They have died for wearing the wrong colors, sitting in the wrong section or cheering for the wrong team.

And in pursuit of that it seems FIFA has a say over what a player wears under their kit (See Brazil). Or what a player wears on their head (See Iran). But what about what a player does on the field? When Chicharito takes a knee at the start of the game or does a sign of the cross after he scores a goal, what of that?

Let’s reflect — if that’s not too religious — for a moment that soccer is, in itself, a religion.

Does that make FIFA the glacially paced bureaucracy that’s out of touch with the real world? Religious diversity exists. Female Muslim players exist. Something fair, well-thought-out and not-half-assed should be put in place so FIFA doesn’t keep looking like the Big Bad that’s not taking into consideration a religion dating back about 1400 years.

PHOTOS: Top from WashPost of Iran Women’s Soccer team, Puyol and Xavi hold up Catalan flag during last summer’s World Cup; Chicharito prays on the field

Happy Birthday, Chicharito!

Today, Chicharito turns the big 2-3. What do you get a guy that became the first Mexican to play for Manchester United…??? A guy who scored in his first World Cup appearance…??? Scored against Golden Glove-d Iker Casillas in a bicentennial game…??? Has won over ManU and named fan favorite of the year…???

Well, if your on the Mexican national squad, the best gift you can, and did, give your countryman was a W.

In the last friendly before the start of the Gold Cup, Mexico held its own against New Zealand. The final score was 3-0. That, however, does not tell the full story. It was not a 3-0 game. And no, it was not a much closer game. It actually should have been around 6-0.

Maybe more.

And that is not my Mexican pride taking this post on hyperbole road. I will flat-out blame TRI players for not converting those extra three (maybe four) goals. This was New Zealand (60th overall) after all, not Spain (1st).

Instead of a cake, the players gave Chicharito a much better gift–confidence going into this weekend. Here´s hoping it helps!

¡Felicidades, chicharito!

Here is a photo gallery of some snaps of this beloved futbolero