Friday, August 17, 2012

Aztecaso: What the U.S. win over Mexico means

This week I’ve been thinking fĂștbol. As I write this I wait to board a flight back to Notre Dame and remember how playing that sport got me through a tough first semester there. I remember nights over at Stephan field playing that game with Brazilians, Nigerians, Arabs, Peruvians… .The closest I’ll get to playing in a World Cup.  

Before I became a poet playing soccer was and still is the only thing I want to do, playing that sport is the closest I’ll ever get to writing poetry. How many poems have I written on a soccer pitch?

Last Wednesday Mexico lost to the U.S. and my heart became the ball, juggled, kicked from post to post. U.S.A. 1-Mexico 0 read the score over the Azteca stadium, that Mexican fortress never before breached by a U.S. team.

In fact in almost a century of play by the two nations the U.S. had never beaten Mexico in Mexico and with more than 110 games played at the Azteca, Mexico had lost no less than ten. The U.S. was facing a Mexico like no other: finishing 3rd in the U20 World Cup, having won two U17 World Cups, beaten the U.S. 5-0 and 4-2 in consecutive Gold Cup finals, and of course beaten Brazil for the Olympic gold medal made Mexico not only undisputed favorites to win the game but the undisputed king of CONCACAF (one of six confederations competing for three of thirty-two places in the World Cup). 

Orozco Fiscal’s goal against Mexico symbolizes U.S. soccer’s breaching of the gap that once existed between these two countries. But what does this historic win mean for Mexico, for the U.S and most importantly for CONCACAF (perhaps one of the weakest of the six confederations)?

Mexico, do you too find it cruel that at the Azteca the grass on the pitch keeps growing without any one to cheer it on?

Mexico, watching you beat Brazil for the Olympic gold was like reading Neruda for the first time. And it reminded me that there is hope for you and your 60,000 civilian deaths in a senseless war on drugs, a war fueled by your savage inequalities and the U.S.’s insatiable thirst for drugs.

There is not denying Mexican soccer is ahead of the U.S. But the U.S. has something Mexico might never have: diversity and the success that might come with it: Jozzy Altidore is of Haitian heritage, Oguchi Onyewu of Nigerian parents, Benny Feilhaber is Brazilian-born, Joe Corona of Salvadoran heritage and not to mention the many Mexican-Americans in the team. Orozco Fiscal—the man who executed Mexico at the Azteca is one of them. In due time the U.S. could very well emulate nations like France and Germany and be considered real contenders for the World Cup, Mexico with this new generation of talent might very well be a contender at Brazil 2014. This not only makes for an interesting rivalry but it is one of the few points of friction within CONCACAF that have kept Mexico and the U.S. as the only real competitors on the international stage.

And yet to reduce this match to a simple rivalry would fail to capture the socioeconomic complexities that exist not only between these two nations but more importantly between the West and the global south.  I remember once making comment that for nations like Mexico to win a WC would represent a tangible sign of progress. Obviously my comment was met with disdain as someone quickly remarked that real progress is a measurement of economic growth. That person was right.

The world of international soccer is not unlike that of the global economy. An event like the WC requires an incredible—and often unjust— allocation of public and natural resources under the assumption that such models of development can be sustained despite the planet’s finite resources. If at the current rate of development the world, the developed and rapidly developing nations, are already using an extravagant and unsustainable amount of natural resources, how many more earths would it require to “bring people out of poverty,” and to stimulate “economic growth” in the underdeveloped world?

Despite the fact that the growth model that emerged since the start of the Industrial Revolution is unsustainable, Western industrial economies hold fast to this model and push the global south to adopt such forms of development. Despite the fact that such system is not designed for the very poor of this planet and in fact thrives because of their economic and social woes. The global south bleeds so that the West can grow fat, simple as that.

. And yet an important win in that competition would bring the people of the global south one of the only few sustainable resources on this planet: happiness and a real sense of dignity.