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Fans Make America Mexico Again at Soccer Tournament

In 2011, fans at the Rose Bowl infamously booed “The Star Spangled Banner” before a soccer game and the defeated American men’s team at an awards ceremony following the 4-2 loss to Mexico.

“I think it was a f—ing a disgrace that the entire post-match ceremony was in Spanish,” American goalkeeper Tim Howard opined. “You can bet your ass that if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn’t be all in English.”

Five years later, fans wearing Speedy Gonzalez’s hat and Rey Mysterio’s mask heavily populate crowds at the Copa America. Once again, people, not all of them Americans, find this vexing.

Noticing America contains “a big colony” of Mexicans, Uruguay Football Association president Wilmar Valdez maintained that “this tournament is pretty much put together with Mexico in mind.” His complaint? Holding an international tournament in the United States gives Mexico an unfair advantage. His nation’s team, like the Americans in 2011, lost to Mexico after a national anthem debacle. Mexicans booed Francis Scott Key’s words in 2011. The people running the tournament played the wrong song last week when it came time to honoring Uruguay before the match.

But the sounds from the spectators likely bothered Uruguay more than the sounds from the speakers. Whereas Peru-Ecuador drew about 12,000 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Mexico-Uruguay at the same venue attracted five times as many fans. Mexico plays before the home audience when they compete in Glendale, or in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, where the national team played before 83,263, or in Houston at NRG Stadium, where 60,025 filled the retractable-roof stadium.

There, signs read “Trump I brought my birth certificate just in case. #F—Trump” and—pardon my Spanish—“Chingue a su madre #Trump.” Five years ago, booing the American national anthem strangely passed for patriotism among Mexican-American soccer fans. Today, bashing the guy who wants to put a Valla Grande next to the Rio Grande plays as the most readily identifiable form of nationalism from the boosters of El Tri.

It’s the American Southwest, home of the red, white, and blue green, where they drink Bud Modelo, speak English Spanish, and play football futbol. Love it or leave it—or hate it and come. That latter approach seems pretty popular. But in defense of the Mexican-Americans cheering on the old country, they neither display the fighting folkways of Russian soccer hooligans nor take the phrase “America is da bomb” as literally as immigrants from another part of the world. Whereas those foreigners excel at destruction, Mexican soccer fans work in construction (at least the similarities between the crowd inside the Rose Bowl and outside the Home Depot suggest so). And contrary to Donald Trump’s contention, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” South of the Border’s soccer export looks like the best at the Copa America.

Both the United States and Mexico play, but not each other, in the quarterfinals later this week. Should the teams eventually meet up in a match of great importance, a tournament that used Donald Trump’s rhetoric to sell itself may end up selling Donald Trump. The crowd may chant “Make America Mexico Again” but that whispers “Make America Great Again” to much of the rest of the country.

Millions can root for Mexico against America in America. But they do so at the risk of validating the politician rooting for millions of Mexicans to get out of America.

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