Gender & Identity, Life

I cried when Mexico lost the World Cup

Rooting for Mexico is a sense of loyalty to my father, my ancestors and ethnicity.

I felt a knot in my throat and knew it was all over. In less than fifteen minutes my dad and I went from cheering to sitting in silence with our arms crossed. From tasting victory as Mexico dominated against the Netherlands and lead 1-0, I suddenly felt helpless.

The game was now tied. In added time, Arjen Robben from the Netherlands was set to deliver a penalty kick. The Mexican team now held on to each other as they fell on their knees to pray for a miracle. Mexico was now in the hands of its goalkeeper, Memo Ochoa, who had been a lifesaver for the team during the World Cup.

I then started to cry with the rest of the Mexican team. Click To Tweet

“C’mon, Memo. Don’t fail us now,” I begged, feeling a small glimmer of hope that he would be able to block the still-disputed penalty kick. But as the soccer ball went flying, I knew we had lost the game – and along with it, our chance to go to the quarterfinals for the first time since the 1980s.

I looked at my dad as he sat in silence with his arms behind his head. His eyes looked dead as he stared at the television. I then started to cry with the rest of the Mexican team. I angrily texted my friends about the unfair penalty call and joined the #NoEraPenal (it wasn’t a penalty) trend on social media.

I felt a knot in my throat and knew it was all over. Click To Tweet

Later that day, my dad told me that the loss was still hurting him, and I felt the same way.

Mexico’s defeat in last year’s World Cup is the most heartbroken I have ever felt watching the sport, but it is not the first time I have cried at the elimination of my team.

As a Mexican American and sports fan, people often try to challenge me by asking, “When USA and Mexico play against each other, who do you root for?” When I answer Mexico, many seem surprised. How can she love a team from a country she was not born in?

I was born in the United States, but my connection to El Tri, as we call Mexico’s national soccer team, runs deep. I am not denying my American identity by rooting for Mexico, but rather embracing an important part of my culture, soccer, or fútbol like we call it, to become who I fully am.

My dad told me that the loss was still hurting him, and I felt the same way. Click To Tweet

It began sometime in 1990s. I remember being in my pajamas one morning and watching a man with long, blond hair, who now I know is Luis Hernandez, run with his arms stretched out as other men ran behind him and jumped in celebration.

Since then I became a member of one of the most passionate fan bases. I see myself having the same cultural experience as the fans that fill stadiums wherever Mexico plays. They dress up as Mexican pop culture icons my parents grew up with and later introduced me to— like wrestler El Santo or the Chapulín Colorado character— and they sing traditional songs played by mariachis like “Cielito Lindo” to encourage the team.

My love for El Tri is rooted in me because my dad integrated it in my life. Rooting for Mexico is a sense of loyalty to him, my ancestors and ethnicity. Even now at 22, it fills me with excitement when my dad brings the television full volume to hear the sports broadcasters yell for an extended amount of time every time Mexico scores.

Rooting for Mexico is a sense of loyalty to him, my ancestors and ethnicity. Click To Tweet

Through soccer, my dad cultivated my love for Mexico and its history even when we were miles away. The first line of the national anthem, “Mexicanos al grito de guerra” – Mexicans, at the cry of war! – before a game, always hits me to my core.

I see myself in the players as they proudly display their nationality and identity. My dad often used this moment to tell me that the Mexican national anthem is mine because I am Mexican just as I am American. He taught me that the courage of my ancestors, who lived through the Mexican revolution and battled for justice, also lives in me.

It almost brings me to tears when I envision Mexico winning the World Cup title. The cheers, tears and unity that will come from the country as a result of the victory will be immeasurable.

I doubt Mexico will win the next World Cup, or even the next one after that, but they will. And when they do, I hope my dad is next to me.