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ALLIANCES
Balaclavas mask friendly faces


The Zapatistas are no strangers to casual kickabouts in serious boots, such as this match in Mexico City. (www.jornada.unam.mx)
Oventic, Mexico, 17 August 2005 | In another example of politics making strange bedfellows, Milan club Internazionale and the ragtag group of advocates for Indian rights, the Zapatistas of Chiapas (formally called the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN), have agreed to play a pair of friendlies. Details remain sketchy, perhaps an inevitability given the profile of the Zapatista leader, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, the nom de guerre of the academic whom Mexican officials identify as Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente, a former philosophy professor. Subcomandante Marcos made his first public appearance in four years on 6 August, causing journalists to remark on his visible paunch (Hugh Dellios, "Masked Rebel Leader Has a New Cause in Mexico," Chicago Tribune, 14 August). More important, Marcos's reappearance, the group's renewed commitment to peaceful change, the flirtations with Inter Milan—one of the wealthiest European clubs, backed by oil baron Mássimo Moratti—and the selection of a new Zapatista mascot (a chicken, dressed as a penguin) appear to form part of a larger intent to lift the group's profile before presidential elections in July 2006 (Danna Harman, "It Will All Be Made Clear in the Next Zapatista Memo," Christian Science Monitor, 2 August).


"Pingui," on server patrol. Marcos writes, "We are all like pingui, forcing ourselves to rise up and make our way in Mexico, in Latin America and the world."

The Zapatistas are ever conscious of public relations, demonstrated by the sophistication of their Centro de Medios Independientes and accompanying website. The site, in fact, has published the correspondence between Marcos and Moratti. In a rambling, amusing message, Marcos suggests two games—a tie—played in Italy and at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) ground in Mexico City ("Marcos: Let the Games Begin," 25 May):

I have been unanimously designated Head Coach and put in charge of Intergalactic Relations for the zapatista football team (well, in truth no one else wanted to accept the job). . . . [I]n order to differentiate ourselves from the objectification of women which is promoted at football games and in commercials, the EZLN would ask the national lesbian-gay community, especially transvestites and transsexuals, to organize themselves and to amuse the respectable with ingenious pirouettes during the games in Mexico. That way, in addition to prompting TV censorship, scandalizing the ultra-right and disconcerting the Inter ranks, they would raise the morale and spirits of our team.

Moratti, in equally eloquent fashion, ripostes:

We will play. We will play our game, and I thank you for that. It will be a great match. Perhaps in a field, like we did as children, perhaps surrounded by giant trees. Or in a stadium, in the capital or on a rectangle drawn out in chalk on the earth, with the dust rising up until it makes us cough. Exhausted, but happy.

Caught up in the fantasy, Marcos demonstrates why he has helped make the 11-year-old indigenous-rights movement a cause célèbre in Europe and the Americas. He suggests Diego Maradona as referee with former Argentine international and writer Jorge Valdano as an assistant; Uruguayan authors Eduardo Galeano and Mario Benedetti would offer commentary. Valdano, for his part, has agreed, and the star of Mexico's women's team, Maribel Domínguez, has said she would play for EZLN—presumably sans balaclava. "If there's an opportunity to be there it is a good cause," she told La Jornada, the leftist paper that backs the Zapatistas (Abril Del Rio, "Maribel Domínguez alinearía con el EZLN, 'gustosa por la paz,' " 3 June). "I think it would mean a lot toward peace in the country, and that is most important." The match idea has grown out of such noble motives and from the initial interest of Inter captain Javier Zanetti, who persuaded the club to pool changing-room fines for
Link to Quién
The October 2005 issue also includes features on fellow rebels James Dean and Russell Crowe. (www.quien.com)
donations that came to €5,000. "Our team doesn't just play on PlayStations and computers," said Inter manager Bruno Bartolozzi. Like Moratti, Bartolozzi can also reach rhetorical heights: "Soccer is like the fight of resistance—full of surprises."

Update: Marcos's new era of media availability extends in October 2005 to a cover feature in Mexican style glossy Quién (Alberto Tavira Álvarez, "Marcos vive una intensa historia de amor"). Described as el sex symbol de la selva ("forest"), Marcos looks out amiably from the cover with his pipe well-positioned. The article purports to disclose "El Sub's" love interests, in particular an ongoing relationship with journalist Gloria Muñoz Ramírez. The article speculates as to whether the couple has a son, without reaching a conclusion.

ETHNICITIES
Be a Goat, be a hero

Los Angeles, 13 March 2005 | Details mean Club Deportivo Chivas USAeverything in the day-to-day scrum of print journalism. Kudos, therefore, to David Davis, writing for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, for letting us know that Club Deportivo Chivas USA owner Jorge Vergara refuses to wear socks while skiing ("Conquistador in Cleats"). George Costanza's father wore sneakers in the pool. Do we find this strange? Well, yes. Also intriguing is the remark from José Alamillo, Washington State University professor of comparative ethnic studies. Alamillo tells Davis that Mexican American immigrants, who will form much of the Chivas USA fan base, use football almost as a countercultural statement: "Among immigrants, loyalty to soccer is more than being a hard-core fan. It's a way to resist assimilation into American culture."

LIMA, PERU, 25 JULY 2004
Catching Up, Part I: Latin America
A post–Euro 2004 hiatus has left The Global Game with reams of paper atop its blonded desk, representing a backlog of news items and deferred observations. Sadly, we have neglected Copa América, which finished today with Brazil's victory in penalty kicks over Argentina. In 88 meetings, Brazil has won 34 times, Argentina 33, with 21 draws. Copa América is the oldest continental football tournament,

Haitians love the Brazilian team, as they demonstrate following a victory in the 2002 World Cup finals. (AP)
the first official event dating to 1917, but the tournament's reputation has slipped over the years, and Brazil this year fielded its "B" side (though stars Edu and Kleberson and the others are hardly "B"-list players). Each tournament we are impressed by Brazil's global appeal and by the players' status as ambassadors. Brazil president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has offered to escort the senior side (Ronaldo and Ronaldinho on board this time) to Port-au-Prince on 18 August for a friendly against Haiti. The match, which is appearing less likely now due to security concerns, would serve as an extension of Brazil's commitment to the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), to which Brazil has contributed 1,200 troops. The Brazilians have already brought 1,000 soccer balls and kit. Admission to the friendly was to have been granted by an exchange of weapons the previous week, but "that proposal was abandoned after diplomats realized it would probably stimulate trafficking in guns and enrage Haitians by giving preferential treatment to armed gang members" (Larry Rohter, "Brazil Is Leading a Largely South American Mission to Haiti," New York Times, 1 August).

As for Copa América, and some of the sides involved, hosts Peru advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Argentina. Peru last hosted the competition in 1957, and the 2004 edition marked something of a turning point following some 20 years of armed resistance led by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru guerrillas. (See also the website of Peru's Comisión de la Verdad y Reconciliación and of the related photo exhibition, "Yuyanapaq: Para recordar.") This year's event was spiced by a one-day nationwide strike called midway through the event by the Confederación General de Trabajadores del Peru (CGTP), the country's largest labor organization. Protesting the free-market policies of the continent's least-popular leader, President Alejandro Toledo, the action resulted in 76 arrests, although the Associated Press characterized the strike's impact as minimal (Monte Hayes, "Peruvians Largely Ignore Call for Strike," 14 July). The government mobilized 93,000 police to make its views clear; former president and opposition Aprista Party leader Alan Garcia, however, supported the strike. More disruptive was the shutdown of Aero Continente, one of Peru's two major air carriers, when its insurance contract was not renewed. At least one journalist—the BBC's Tim Vickery—had to change his travel plans.

Football spectacles in Latin America always seem to raise the specter of the past,
Click for ReVista website
ReVista magazine spotlights Chile and the Chilean national stadium in its spring issue.
when governments have greatly overreached, suspending regard for human rights and using sports or stadia as sites for their evil deeds. Previous excesses in Chile and Mexico both made news during the tournament. In its spring issue, ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America includes photography and a recollection of the Chilean national stadium's time as a prison and torture center in the fall of 1973 (Katherine Hite, "Chile's National Stadium: As Monument, as Memorial"). On 11 September of that year, military forces overthrew socialist president Salvador Allende, installing Augusto Pinochet as dictator. Soldiers ransacked the home of Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda—whose 100th birthday was commemorated on 12 July—leading to bedridden Neruda's famous remark: "The only weapons here are words." Following Carmen Luz Parot's documentary Estadio Nacional (2001), the stadium has been turned into a still-functioning memorial, of which Hite writes:

The National Stadium . . . is clearly a cultural icon of the nation. As a site of traumatic memory, the Stadium thus poses unique opportunities as well as challenges. With its 80,000-seat capacity, the Stadium is the site of the most important soccer matches in the country (and a World Cup site in 1962), immensely popular musical concerts, and other athletic and cultural events. It is extremely "inhabited." Tens of thousands constantly come and go through the stadium's gates. The fate of the Stadium as monument does not risk the physical, social and cultural relegation common to many conventional historic monuments.

Nor will the monument assume the quality of some static, impenetrable granite object commemorating fallen heroes. Too often, writes Chilean cultural scholar and critic Nelly Richard, a monument represents "the nostalgic contemplation of the heroic; the reification of the past in a commemorative block that petrifies the memorial as inert material." In the stadium, citizens will travel in and through the monument, making relegation, distance, and inertia far more difficult. Locating the accounts of victims and their families within the monument necessarily engages the representations of the past atrocities with the vibrant, emotional lived experiences of the present.

Mexico's ignominy occurred on 2 October 1968 when, 10 days before the start of the Olympic Games, government forces opened fire on student protesters in the La Plaza de las Tres Culturas at Tlatelolco in Mexico City, killing several hundred (see Tim Weiner, "When the Olympic Games Turned Political," New York Times, 24 July). Luis Echeverría, the interior minister in 1968 and later Mexico's president, was indicted on 23 July for his alleged role in authorizing additional murders of demonstrators in 1971. In between, of course, Mexico hosted the World Cup finals. But, according to Weiner's article in the Times, some historians date the end of Mexico's one-party rule to the events of 1968. The change culminated in 2000 with the election of current president Vincente Fox, who has his own problems.

Colombia, which finished fourth in Copa América, nearly had to surrender the tournament in

Yet another photo of besparkled South American terraces, this time from Once Caldas. (www.oncecaldas.com.co)
2001, as it had the World Cup in 1986 (to Mexico) due to spates of drug-related killings. But its positive showing over the last few weeks and the unlikely triumph of Manizales-based Once Caldas in the Copa Libertadores—over Boca Juniors in a penalty shootout on 1 July—perhaps give the nation's football new optimism. Once Caldas drew on its location in the Andes (the final home tie with Boca took place 7,095 feet above sea level) and fervent home support to give Colombia only its second Libertadores title. "You have given the country infinite happiness," president Alvaro Uribe told the team.

Finally, ties between the United States—which turned down a Copa América place to concentrate on CONCACAF World Cup qualifying—and its Latin neighbors have been in focus. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl concluded the magazine's four-part series on globalization in sports by contrasting the efforts of the National Football League and Major League Soccer to win over non-American fans ("Football vs. Fútbol," 5 July). MLS, of course, has accepted Jose Vergara's proposal for Chivas USA, to be based outside Los Angeles. Wahl writes:

The plan is rich in irony: MLS will be creating its own regional type of globalization by harnessing the power of globalism's supposed bugbear, fervent nationalism. In the most multinational of sports, Chivas's appeal is simple: It has never signed a non-Mexican player in its 97-year history. "We want to spread the passion of being all [Mexican] nationals," Vergara says, "and, of course, of always giving everything you have. That's how Mexicans play—and how Chivas USA is going to play."

Vergara certainly seems forward-thinking, attracted in the near-term by the 9.5 million people in Los Angeles County, of whom 45 percent are Latinos. Vergara also has been cited for uplifting women in the Mexican workplace, having created business and self-empowerment training centers solely for women. "In Latin American countries we have wasted women in the workforce because of our macho education," Vergara tells Wahl ("Have Ambition, Will Travel," SI.com, 30 June). Certainly Chivas will encounter cultural differences in its new venture. An interesting distinction likely will come in the area of branding. As the Financial Times noted recently (John Authers, "Why Mexicans Mix Cement with Football," 8 July), Chivas currently wears the logo of Cemento Tolteca. Other Mexican clubs, too, are endorsed by cement makers, well aware that "in Mexico, and in much of the rest of the developing world, people buy cement one bag at a time, usually from small hardware stores. That means it must be sold and marketed as a consumer product, not in bulk from business to business, as it is in developed economies." Women sometimes decide what cement to buy, showing again that preconceived notions often mislead.

SAN JOSÉ, COSTA RICA, 5 MARCH 2004
Domínguez the Toast of Mexico
A female footballer from Mexico has earned a rare honor. Maribel Domínguez is the toast of the country, having scored both goals in a 2–1 result over

Maribel Domínguez celebrates afterward (AP)
Canada, propelling Mexico's women's team into the Olympic Games for the first time (Daniel Blancas Madrigal, "Maribel: Madera de campeona," El Universal). Las Tricoloras earned further respect, both abroad and at home. The match against Canada was telecast live nationwide; the side's World Cup qualifier against Japan last year brought an estimated 85,000 to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (no admission was charged). After the victory on 3 March, coach Leo Cuellar said it could have long-term impact.

What we earned today was another four years of support [from the Mexican federation]. We live in a culture where you have to win to get support. . . . The players deserved this win. They do not get any pennies for this. It has no value financially for them, but emotionally these are tattoos that stay on your heart forever. (Mark Zeigler, "U.S. Women Joined by Mexico in Nailing Down Trip to Olympics," San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 March)

Domínguez has seven goals in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament thus far, with a final against the United States tonight. (Both teams already have earned the confederation's two spots in Athens.) The youngest of nine children growing up near Mexico City's federal district, Domínguez credits her mother with hiding her football shoes and taking her to training when her father, who did not like football, was not around (Blane Bachelor, "Mexico's Dominguez Overcomes Long Odds," USA Today, 4 August 2003). "Yo era feliz en los campos" ("I was happy on the fields") Domínguez tells El Universal. At 25 she is already Mexico's all-time leading scorer and with the WUSA's Atlanta Beat was one of the side's most popular players. Local Spanish-language publication Estadio dubbed her "Mari-gol," and children posted her picture on bedroom walls (Michelle Hiskey, "Newspapers Make Sport(s) in Spanish," Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 17 August 2003).

  • Guadalajara, Mexico | 10 February 2004 . . . Jalisco Stadium hosts a much-hyped encounter tonight between the under-23 men's teams of Mexico and the United States (Elisabeth Malkin, "Mexican Honor and Olympics on Line vs. U.S.," New York Times). The Mexican under-23 side makes preparationsAt stake is a spot in the Olympic Games in Athens. The hype, naturally, has occurred "south of the border"—the phrase signifying the perspective from which we write. The game will not be broadcast, except on closed-circuit television, in the United States. But there is plenty of attention in Mexico, which has ready recall of the 2–0 defeat to the U.S. in the 2002 World Cup round of 16. Malkin leads off, perhaps overdramatically:

    For Mexico's beleaguered people, Tuesday's soccer match between Mexico and the United States in Guadalajara is about much more than winning a place in the Summer Olympics in Athens. ¶It is about national honor. ¶To many Mexicans, soccer has become a proxy for all the indignities the country has suffered at the hands of the United States in almost two centuries of independence. . . . In Mexican eyes, the United States now alternately bullies its southern neighbor or ignores it—all the while building a wall to keep out Mexicans.

    While emphasizing the importance of the match—"es el más importante de mi carrera," says Mexican midfielder Luis Pérez in an agency report ("México y Estados Unidos disputan el boleto para los Juegos Olímpicos," La Jornada, 9 February)—the few Mexican sources we checked did not indicate that it had cosmic significance beyond football. TV Azteca commentator José Ramón Fernández sets the stake as "un día importante y crítico para una nueva generación de futbolistas" ("México debe ganar," tvazteca.com.mx), but the reference is to futbolistas, not to the nation as a whole. That supporters of Mexico at a first-round match in Zapopan chanted "Osama, Osama" during the U.S. anthem could be taken as a show of respect. Mexico knows that the home advantage will be critical.

  • New York | 14 December 2003 . . . Andrés Martinez, writing on the New York Times editorial pages ("Nowadays, Owning a Ball Club Means Always Having to Say You're Sorry," p. 10), highlights the trend for sports-club owners to apologize for their teams' poor performances. He contrasts this notion to a childhood spent rooting for Atlético Español in Mexico, "a soccer team whose ineptitude caused me endless grief."

    On plenty of Monday mornings back when I was in junior high (say after Atlético had only managed to score on its own goal over the weekend), I wanted to stay home, so as to avoid the inevitable ribbing from my classmates, most of whom rooted for the Club América. América was the Dallas Cowboys, or the New York Yankees, of Mexican soccer. When it imported a Brazilian player, he was likely to be someone who had played in the World Cup. When a Brazilian happened to join my team, it was because he'd rather play somewhere, anywhere, than drive a bus back in Rio. | back to top