Make no mistake about it, Friday’s huge 2018 World Cup qualifier between bitter rivals the U.S. and Mexico will be about much more than what happens on the field.
Donald Trump being elected as the new president of the U.S. will have a big impact on proceedings.
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In the stands and around MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, before, during and after the game, the ramifications of Trump being elected as the new President of the United States of America will be felt acutely and directly.
Trump’s vilifying of Mexico and its people throughout his election campaign was one of his main campaign themes. As was his notion of wanting to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it was seen as a step too far by many. Add in that the value of the Peso plummeted following the announcement of Trump’s victory and Mexico is very involved in this presidential election.
You can also bet your bottom dollar that chants of “build that wall!” will be sung by some U.S. fans in Ohio on Friday.
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Not everyone will agree with it, but sone will sing it.
The president elect has also seemingly described many Mexican immigrants in the USA as criminals early on in his campaign trail, something many among the USA’s large Mexican-American community haven’t forgot. Neither have the citizens of Mexico.
Friday’s game has the potential to become an ugly occasion with political tensions incredibly high at this moment in time. Many Latinos and Hispanics believe Trump’s victory has essentially placed a target on their backs.
It also has the potential to become an occasion where two nations come together and unite to worry about the game and forget about all of the other issues for 90 minutes.
Could fans of the U.S. and Mexico unite in a moment of extreme uncertainty between the two nations?
Mexico’s fans (a few hundred are expected to have tickets but many more will be in and around the stadium) and players were already due to enter a cauldron of hostility in Columbus, just as they always have done in the adopted home of the U.S. national team where chants of “Dos a Cero!” in four-straight WOrld Cup qualifying victories from the USMNT haunt everyone connected with El Tri.
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Given the events early Wednesday, the vitriol will be cranked up more than a few notches as the USA and Mexico kick off their opening game of the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.
This game didn’t need any extra spice added to it. Now, thanks to Trump, it has it.
Players and management from both teams will try and talk down the political situation and the potential links to their rivalry before the game, which will be helpful. I’ve already spoken to friends going to Columbus who predict that the chants and interactions in the parking lots surrounding MAPFRE Stadium and downtown Columbus will be unsavory. This unfortunately, like many intense rivalries, happens at many USA vs. Mexico encounters but due to recent events comments about “building a wall” and promises to “make them pay for it” seem a little closer to the bone.
The fact of the matter is: the two cultures of the U.S. and Mexico are closely intertwined. That’s what makes the feelings in Friday’s game so complicated.
There will be Mexican-Americans in the stands who will not only be hurt by any potential unrest and chants, but also concerned about the future of relations between the USA and its neighbor to the south. What does Trump being in the White House mean for themselves and their families, long-term? Friday is about so much more than a game.
Yes, Trump may have done slightly better with the Hispanic vote than expected (around 29 percent of their vote some studies suggest) but his blatant polarizing of Mexico and the USA will fuel the chants and thoughts of some fans in the stadium. Especially after a day full of drinking. There’s no getting away from that fact and TV footage of banners, chants or any unrest will be beamed around the globe.
This match between the U.S. national team and Mexico will be seen as a major early indicator as to how Trump’s election has been accepted.
Not all USMNT fans will agree with Trump’s election and his ideologies but it is likely many of the locals will. In Ohio, the state which has selected the winning presidential candidate in every U.S. election since 1964, they went Republican. Yes, plenty of U.S. fans will travel from across the 50 states to watch this match but the vast majority will be locals from the Columbus area.
That in itself creates an issue as Columbus has a sizable Hispanic community with over 22 percent of its residents classed as Hispanic and the majority of those are Mexicans. You only have to go to a Columbus Crew game to understand the rich Hispanic heritage running through the soccer community in Ohio’s largest city.
Friday’s game will hold much greater significance than just three points in the Hex and a battle between bitter CONCACAF rivals.
It will also be a measuring stick to see just how deep the divides between the USA and Mexico have become following Trump’s unsavory rhetoric and his unlikely ascension to becoming the most powerful man in the world.