Given the news story that is currently on many people’s minds, especially when they blow their nose, look in their handkerchief and wonder, it is perhaps not a surprise that the following article should focus on a Central American country that is only known to many for its spicy food, long moustaches and earthquakes.
However, I make no apologies for diverting my attention this time from the north west football scene – home of the champions, runners up, cup finalists, play off finalists, mid table mediocrity – to a place far far away. In fact, the Mexican focus is due to my nice surprise last night – you see, after a long arduous day in school I came home to a FedEx package: my reward for a sentimental article I wrote in anticipation of an FA Cup game.
I was proud and a little relieved to win the competition that SoccerPro had recently run through the very website you now read. Largely because I had written more than I maybe should have during the period that the competition was covering. Not in terms of quantity, I hasten to add – Lisa will tell you that I often wake in the early hours with a new idea playing through my mind, and then forget by get up time – but in terms of my stream of consciousness and honesty bordering on cathartic release. If you’ve read my stuff before then you’ll know what I mean. Anyway, when given the choice of shirts from the site, for various reasons – mainly the central sponsor that you’ll see below, if I’m honest – I chose the Monterrey home shirt.
Monterrey (Mexico) – My chosen shirt, courtesy of EFP & SoccerPro
I knew very little about the club, just thought it looked quite a nice design, perhaps more importantly, I figured not many other people here would have one, and as a football shirt obsessive that bode well.
So after frantically pulling apart the packaging, I was very pleased with my choice, a really nice addition to the collection.
However, as I am regrettably wired, I began thinking. Was there some subliminal message telling me to choose that shirt? Has Mexico somehow played a vital part in my development as a football fan?
Let’s look at the evidence.
Mexico ’86 cemented my interest in the game, following as it did the rather-upsetting-to-a-six-year-old-Everton-fan FA Cup Final. I recall clearly the Panini album, the incredible nascot, the aerated England shirt, an Alessandro Altobelli card in a bubblegum packet, and everyone talking about Maradona.
Mexico ’86 – Hand of God, Big Hats, Sanchez, Lineker & Crowd Waves…
Hugo (Ooo-go) Sanchez became a firm favourite after that tournament, even though I’d only seen him do one overhead kick. Later, my best friend at the time had a Mexican boy over on an exchange (I think his name was Falstar or something equally exotic) of whom I was decidedly jealous and embarrassingly I revelled in the fact that Mexico were to be banned from Italia ’90 for fielding over age players as I recall. Soon after, we fell out.
At about the same time, one of my most vivid childhood memories was our annual days out to Blackpool that my granddad treated my sister and I to. One year I distinctly remember a visit to the annual Blackpool Circus – which, the year in question, was the touring Mexican State Circus. Aficionados of Bo Selector, other comedy programmes would quickly recognise the stars of the show that day – the two hairy Mexican kids whose unfortunate lot in life was to be born with a defective gene that covered their faces and most of their bodies with thick dark hair. I can still see them playing on the trapeze now.
Fast forward a few years and my dreams of being a football kit designer were inspired by the mad (read, inconsistent/psychotic/dodgy) goalkeeper who designed his own kits. I couldn’t get over the fact that this was possible, and the designs I sent to Umbro definitely had some similarities to those worn by Jorge Campos.
In the meantime, my uncle living in Texas, I enviously heard reports of family members who went to visit him and made trips to this mystical country. He would come over for family events and bring with him all sorts of interesting recipes and ingredients for guacamole or tacos and I couldn’t wait for the day I could go myself.
Fortunately I made that journey in 2001.
Don’t get me wrong I will be eternally grateful that I was able to spend a day in a border town on a boiling hot day that summer, and it is something that I will never forget. But, I won’t be rushing back, not because of swine flu you understand, but because it upset me so much.
Many will have the impression of Mexico as a poor country. I am sure there are worse holiday destinations. But I distinctly remember several aspects of the day in Laredo / Nuevo Laredo that will never leave me.
After crossing a bridge over the Rio Grande (that I was told immigrants regularly swam across) I saw a handbag snatch at the first market we visited. I bought an incredible wrestling figure and ring toy set to cheer myself up. Passing the young girls, wearing Corona sashes and little else, stood outside bars to entice rich Americans in to drink cervezas and eat oily nachos, led to my buying an incredible puppet of an old man. The highlight of the day was a meal at apparently the nicest restaurant in town, I had turtle soup and cabrito (goat) which was incredible, but this was negated by the street children rushing up to us trying to sell us chewing gum outside. I couldn’t wait to leave.
This memory came back to me when my friends and I watched the 2006 World Cup. We inexplicably loved Mexico during that tournament, especially their swarthy centre back who oozed class and composure, one Rafael Marquez. We created a rather repetitive chant of his name, drunkenly performed in several Liverpool pubs to this day. Then, later that summer, I was lucky enough to watch Barcelona play a friendly at Camp Nou in 2006. I have written before that I was enthralled by the performance that night of Messi in particular, but also Eto’o, Ronaldinho, Iniesta… but also Marquez. He quickly became a favourite of mine, and although still doesn’t convince everyone in terms of his defensive capabilities, was unfortunate recently to be injured and ruled out of the European Cup Final.
Time went on and my watching ‘David Beckham Soccer USA’ one Friday night brought yet another Mexico-related revelation. Morrissey was featured as fan of the week one episode, wearing the shirt of LA based Chivas USA, a Hispanic MLS franchise.
I was soon on to Ebay to purchase the red and white striped strip as a little research enamoured me to the club and its history. Another link to the Latin Americans, and perhaps my choice of prize, came writing this. I asked Lisa what she thought of when I said Mexico and her somewhat bizarre answer was red kidney beans. By way of coincidence, they have recently become part of my staple diet following advice from my doctor to help me put weight on.
Then, this morning I read that Mexico has already withdrawn its clubs from the Copalibertadores and the (now Svenless) national team from the Copa America, due to a political argument over two teams having to play their games in the US after opposition teams refused to play in Mexico. This after a Mexican player apparently snorting at a Chilean opponent last weekend and telling him he had the ‘flu.
Finally, to Monterrey. Like I said, I knew nothing about the club when choosing their shirt, though have recently discovered they sit fourth in the league and therefore qualify for the next stage of the season. I’ve since found out that not only do they play in blue and white in front of passionate fans in an old stadium but are due to move to a 50,000 seater in the near future, but the great Eusebio played for them, and Jared Borgetti does now, Mexico’s all time leading scorer. It’s always nice to havean alternative team’s results to look out for, and even if this only entails a monthly read of the international section of FourFourTwo, I’ll class myself as a Monterrey fan for a while at least.
Up the Rayados!