Documenting the great rivalry: USA-Mexico

[INTERVIEW] For the last two years, filmmaker Pablo Miralles has been producing a documentary about U.S. and Mexican soccer titled “Gringos at the Gate.” We spoke with Miralles, who just returned from Pachuca where he interviewed the club’s Mexican-American duo, about the insight he's gotten from the neighboring nations' star players and fans on what has become one of the world’s greatest soccer rivalries.

SOCCER AMERICA: What did you learn from your visit to Pachuca, which fields U.S. products Jose Francisco Torres and Herculez Gomez, whose play in the Mexican league led to their making the U.S. 2010 World Cup team?

They had to get over the initial bias most Mexican players have about American players. And they were seen as Americans – not Mexican-Americans – when they arrived.

Neither of them were perfectly bilingual at the time they went down. But as Paco Torres said, “You’re feet speak for you and eventually you’re respected for your abilities.”

And it doesn’t hurt to win six championships while he’s been there. He’s seen as a very strong central character in Pachuca.

SA: They're popular with the Pachuca fans?

We talked to a lot of Pachuca fans and not a one had a negative thing to say about the two players. Herculez is the only American to ever win a scoring title in a foreign league and the fact that he did it for Puebla, which is the oldest rivalry for Pachuca – they respect him for that.

SA: For “Gringos at the Gate” you interviewed stars from both the U.S. and Mexican national teams. How different were their views on the rivalry?

The biggest, most obvious was the sense of optimism on the part of the American players. One question we asked all the players from both sides was, “Who would win the World Cup first? Mexico or the USA?”

The words hadn’t even exited my mouth and the U.S. players would answer, “The U.S. It’s just a matter of time. Everything’s going for us.”

The Mexican players would inevitably pause. And there’d be a thought. And then they’d finally say, “It would be Mexico of course.” But it wasn’t an immediate answer for them.

SA: Why would the Mexican players be less optimistic?

Ricardo Pelaez said the Mexicans are fearful of how good the U.S. could get. They see that everything else the Americans cared about or wanted, they eventually got.

He phrased it: “They grab it with their talons like an eagle and they refuse to let it go until they own it.”

I think that’s a pretty common feeling of the Mexican players we talked to.

SA: What kind of reactions did you get from Mexican fans on the U.S. team's rise?

PABLO MIRALLES: They use the term “mental toughness” a lot. The players and the fans –- what separates Mexican and U.S. players – mentalidad.

The U.S. players don’t know they should lose, one Mexican fan told us. They don’t know they shouldn't beat these teams they sometimes beat.

SA: In the last decade the USA has dominated its encounters with Mexico on U.S. soil (while Mexico keeps winning in Mexico) even though Mexico gets greater fan support in U.S. stadiums than the host thanks to Mexican-Americans. Did any of the Mexican players have a theory on why that support doesn't translate to Mexican victories?

Alberto Garcia-Aspe said this was actually a detriment for the Mexican team because they felt more pressure to win in the U.S.

SA: What struck you about the difference between U.S. fans and Mexican-American fans?

On average, the Mexican-American fans knew more about the U.S. team than the U.S. fans. Mind you, some of the American fans were super, hyper-aware.

SA: Why do you think that is?

One example, when the rosters were announced for the 2010 World Cup, ESPN had a short show on the announcement, which was very orchestrated, and then you’d get the scrolling thing on the players.

The Spanish-language stations had wall-to-wall five-hours analysis -- and that’s on U.S. team! Not just the Mexican team.

SA: How do you think the Mexico-USA rivalry ranks among the world’s biggest soccer rivalries?

In Europe there are a lot of great soccer nations, and they don’t play each other all that often. In Concacaf there are two big fish, and there used to be only one, Mexico.

That makes it a lot more furious rivalry, from a soccer standpoint, and then add all the historical, cultural and demographic issues, it’s really hard to imagine right now a more intense rivalry.

(Pablo Miralles is the writer/producer/director of “Gringos at the Gate,” a documentary about "two vastly different cultures colliding on the soccer
field," is scheduled for release later this year.)

33 comments about "Documenting the great rivalry: USA-Mexico".
  1. John Sall, March 10, 2011 at 7:45 a.m.

    Dear Pablo,

    GRINGOS at the Gate ???? Really?

    Hope you like my upcoming documentary
    "Wet backs at the Wall" followed up
    by "Chicanos at Qdoba"

    See you on the pitch.

  2. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 9:26 a.m.

    We - citizens, statesmen - must politely remind Latin Americans that we no longer dig the G word. You'd think that they'd respect our wishes given their sensitivity vis-a-vis questions of demonyms and geographical nomenclature. But, of course, their contempt is a birthright. Anyway, I agree that the US-Mexico rivalry is them most intense in the world. While I hope that the rivalry remains intense, I'd like to see it become less hateful. The first steps, for obvious reasons, are incumbent upon the Mexicans.

  3. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 9:29 a.m.

    And, by the way, SoccerAmerica could play a role. But when has it ever dared to raise a hand or point a finger?

  4. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 10:51 a.m.

    That's great. What better way to prove a point than with another childish and stupid remark. The "Gringo" name often used towards white people is not really used in a derragotary way by Mexicans. "Wet back" is always used in a hateful manner. Why don't we start with correcting national names? Americans are all those born in America wich is a continent divided in North and South. I wonder how good Indian North Americans would be at soccer if they wouldn't have been mostly killed off in genocide and secluded by hateful and paranoid people. Mexicans belong to the same race as the North Amreican Indians, the original and true North Americans. These are just some facts for all my North American Brothers that should be a little less hateful when it comes to these issues given their history and direct consequences of. As far as this rivalry, it's fun to watch and get hyped up over but how much of a rivalry will it really be when the USA roster has 6-8 Mexican-USA born players on it's roster if it really wants to get to the next level? Mexicans should just be proud of Mexican players doing well where ever they choose to play as the Polish do with some of it's players on Germany National Team. USA players have chosen to play for other Countries as well and the USA team is a gathering of mostly different nationalities and backgrounds. These players look for their better career options before they look at these national "rivalries". Who do you really go for John??

  5. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.

    What matters is that we don't like being called Gringos. And it is our right to choose the name by which we will be called. Do not presume, like so many angry Latins, to educate us. But, let's face it: when have Mexicans and Latin American soccer fans ever responded to dissent with anything but harangues? How's that for rivalry, gang?

  6. Dave Anderson, March 10, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.

    Hey Luis

    can you make me a double cheeseburger, hold the pickle, large fries and a large coke.


  7. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 11:28 a.m.


    He'll got on it as soon as he's done adjusting the satellite dish and boning up on his Eduardo Galeano.

    That's not racism, Luis; it's contempt.

  8. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

    I can respect your individual opinion Brian and I myself do not use the Gringo word at all. But I have witnessed how it is used and there is no comparison with the "wetback" or "n----r" words wich are both in a completely different context. I am not an angry Latin,Hispanic is the correct term, by the way. I agree with you about how we usually respond to dissent and should learn to counter in a different and more productive manner. What i stated were facts that you and no one else can argue or else I think you would have. As far as a rivalry, I think it's more racial than it is an international one and will be less once the inevitable happens - Much More USA players of Mexican descent. Just like there is a majority of African Americans on the USA Basketball Team. Karma??
    Hey Soccer America, How come the "N"word is not permitted to go in but "wetbacks" and "Gringos" are???

  9. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 11:41 a.m.

    Your right, I should not attempt to educate you guys. Somebody has to do the honest work around here. Cheeseburger ? You must be an overweight hillbilly on wellfare with no dental plan, right??
    Is this the best you smart guys can do ?
    Did I hit an intelectual nerve?

  10. Dave Anderson, March 10, 2011 at noon

    sorry about the cheeseburger comment.

    How bout if you go and get me some tacos instead.

    I don't think overweight hillbillies on welfare with no dental plan would be surfing a soccer site, do you?? and you call us smart guys!!

  11. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 12:03 p.m.

    Fair enough, Luis.

  12. Tyler Dennis, March 10, 2011 at 12:35 p.m.

    "how much of a rivalry will it really be when the USA roster has 6-8 Mexican-USA born players on it's roster" -- Mexican-USA born players... they aren't Mexican then, they are U.S. players. Luis, you bring up historical references of over 100 years ago with the American Indians, yet the Aztecs "ate" each other. Ugly things happen in both cultures always... just because your great great grandpa was eating your neighbor, doesn't mean I hold that against you or any other people of Mexican heritage.

    I think the rivalry is quite intense because Americans of Mexican descent don't realize they are Americans... maybe they will when we get more Americans on the the U.S. team with Latin names... I for one think that would be great, because I'd rather see the technical game with creativity than the English influenced game we play now.

  13. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 1 p.m.

    I wouldn't mind if we had eleven direct descendants of Lord Jeffrey Amherst or Jefferson Davis on the field as long as they represent our best. They could be from dusty barrios, municipal high-rises or ninety-acre estates for all I care. They just have to be good and full of heart.

  14. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.

    You're missing the point, Ric; we don't want to be called Gringos.

    Furthermore, your dismissiveness is sadly typical; scorch-the-earth argumentation dripping with humorless malice is far too common among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

    Relax. But remember that we will determine what we will be called.

    It would also help matters of Mexican fans could demonstrate a bit more respect when they attend games with the US. And maybe the Tri could manage to finish a game with eleven players. And maybe the Mexican coach could stick around to shake hands with his opponent. Or maybe a US player could take a corner kick without having to worry about smelling like stale Tecate for the rest of the match.

  15. Fernando Jimenez, March 10, 2011 at 1:31 p.m.

    I am American. North American= USA & mexico & Central American= Nicargua. The only thing im not is South American.
    Call me whatever Gringo wetback. All i know is VIVA ESTADOS UNIDOS the only anthem i stand for.

  16. Brian Damphousse, March 10, 2011 at 2:15 p.m.

    There you go, Fernando. Que viva!

  17. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 3:24 p.m.

    So hillbilly's don't surf the web? What do you guys do then? Taco Bell is right up your alley. Dave, at least Brian attempts to make an intelligent argument. He shows his pride in a non-Hillbilly manner. Tyler, for your info, you do not have to be born in a country to play for it as long as it is the first country you represent in an international competition. A mexican born player can play for the USA and ViceVersa. Whatever the Aztecs did to each other is not a reason for interracial tension because it involved 1 race. Why would white people hold that against Mexicans if they weren't involved?? But when you deliberately commit genocide to 1 race, forcefully enslave another and try to belittle another's hard work it tends to create a little interracial tension cause it involves quite a few, especially after ignorant comments(see above). Every Mexican is American because America is a continent. What you mean is USA citizens of Mexican descent. Tyler I agree with you on the tecnical improvement and want to see better soccer being played in the USA. We can all be proud of our Heritage and appreciate other races efforts at the same time. Ric, asi se habla. Way to show these guys that we know more about our Heritage and theirs than they think they know. I wonder why they are so scared to say anything when the Black community bring up their issues?? Oh, because they have won many civil right battles against them. They like to celebrate the Civil War and reenact it even though the South lost?? Brian it looks like you should try and educate your kind a little better than trying to focus on what is typical in our culture. Mexican fans do get too rowdy at games, you are right, but aren't White people rowdy as well? The difference is that there are more of us at Mexico vs USA games but there is ignorance on both sides. Ferando, you keep it simple, thats good but if you plan on living here a while and having kids you should appreciate your Heritage as much as you like the USA. You have to make a stand to get respect. This is exactly how other imigrants achieved it, like Italians and Irish, for example.

  18. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 3:54 p.m.

    Hey Brian, boning Eduardo Galeano?? Is that your sister's name ?? By the way, your women love us. It might be because they love the way we caress them with our rough hard working manly hands. In no more than 20 years we will all look like Mexicans. I can be ignorant too. Smart White people, disregard this one. It's meant for the other guys. Hey Dave, lets see if you truly are not a hillbilly. Try to make an intelligent argument. Or do you surf soccer websites just to purely make ignorant comments without any intelectual content?

  19. Dave Anderson, March 10, 2011 at 6:17 p.m.

    Hi Luis Arreola, is that really your last name?? Is it ok if I call you Luis "A Ring of Color, as around the Human Nipple" instead??

    does that count for intelligent??
    but the real question is, in 20 years, will we all be hanging out in home depot parking lots looking for handouts from whitey too?? That is the question Luis.

    What do you say Luis Areola ?? is your middle name Harry??

  20. Luis Arreola, March 10, 2011 at 6:37 p.m.

    Hillbilly Dave strikes again!!!

  21. Luis Harry Nipple, March 10, 2011 at 6:59 p.m.

    Stand Up if you have hairy areola's??

  22. Christian Navarro, March 11, 2011 at 12:06 a.m.

    What is the point? Why fight against each other? It seems to me that we all love the one country that is the greatest in the world and it's national team-USA. To be quite honest...all i see is on here are fans with misplaced feelings and emotions...although the word "gringo" is derived from "Green Grow the Rushes" it can still be seen as derogatory as much as "wetback"; therefore, it should not be used. We are all American, and it should be one fan base routing for one team and not fighting amongst each other! Y al que no le guste...que chinge a su madre!

  23. Luis Arreola, March 11, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.

    Cristian, Gringo can be derrogatory but it wasn't meant to be this in it's original nature. Would this be the same case with Wetback? No, it's sole intention was derrogatory. I would like to see the USA team succeed with the better more tecnical players- Hispanics. Y al que no le guste que la chinge mas recio!!

  24. Kevin Jones, March 12, 2011 at 10:30 p.m.

    Hey Luis and Christian: you guys aren't fans of the usmnt, are you? You see how racist the white people are. I hope you support the Mexican team. Don't be the white man's bitches. They treated you like crap in this thread, the last thing you should do is support them. You guys are Mexican.

  25. Christian Navarro, March 12, 2011 at 10:46 p.m.

    Kevin, I really hope that you are using some heavy dosages of sarcasm because to be quite honest I hate the Mexican National team. I am American, born and raised here. I have followed this national team ever since World Cup 94, and before that I didn't know what the beautiful game was because at 6'6' 285 lbs of raw steel and sex appeal I was playing football in high school almost on my way to playing my college ball.t doesn't matter if I am from Mexican Heritage, i Hate that team with a passion! I wish I had you in front of me when you just said that so that I can do what I usually do to idiots such as you-beat the living crap outta you. USA through and through! y si no te gusta chingas a tu madre pinch pendejo!

  26. Bret Newman, March 13, 2011 at 5:35 a.m.

    "Gringo" doesn't bother me, nor do I think it bothers most Americans. What bothers me is the Mexican National Team not shaking the USMNT after a loss. They need to learn how to be good losers. And they give no credit to the US when get beat. It's always "We controlled the ball." Newsflash! That can help, but is not necessarily the key to winning. We know we can't out possess Mexico with the ball at this time, so we just wait for the counterattack, and Mexico always falls into our trap. Why? Because of their arrogance.

  27. Christian Navarro, March 13, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.

    Damn Straight Bret! Well said sir! I feel it is irrelevant as to who controls the ball. The win loss column is the only one that counts and it sure feels great to rub it in everyone's face that Mexico BLOWS!

  28. Kevin Jones, March 15, 2011 at 2:23 a.m.

    Well, Christian, you'll always be just a beaner to everyone. LOL @ you hating your own people and being the white man's bitch. Go get me a sandwich, Mexican.

    And I would love to say it to your face, 'cause I'd take you down in 2 seconds flat, Mexican boy. Haha, keep wishing you were white, you will never be. All your love for the usmnt won't help you avoid deportation, immigrant.

  29. Luis Arreola, March 15, 2011 at 5:49 p.m.

    Kevin, I thought you weren't racist. Just to be clear. I was born here but I am Mexican first and Mexican second!! I want Mexico team to succeed first but I would also like to see USA advance and the only way they will do it is by giving Hispanics more spots on the National team. Cristian, it sounds like your as dumb as you are big. In the Win Loss columns Mexico is up. Soccer Blogs are for people that know soccer. Not ass kissers!!

  30. Kevin Jones, March 16, 2011 at 5:02 p.m.

    Luis, I respect you and I'd buy you a beer, my friend. You have your head on straight. However, don't forget that the usa is Mexico's biggest rival, so maybe you don't want to see them get better using your own people. The usa's improvement is more ammo for racists to say "we're better than you at everything! Even in a sport we don't care about!"

  31. Christian Navarro, March 16, 2011 at 6:06 p.m.

    kevin I seriously doubt that...i'd make you my bitch no doubt! And sorry about the immigrant part! I'm all American born and raised! I probably pay for your hillbilly ass on wellfare! Plus I do believe that we are all immigrants..goes to show what you know!

  32. Kevin Jones, March 18, 2011 at 5:06 p.m.

    Hey beaner, you wouldn't touch me. I know all the proper pressure points. I'd would have you down in pain faster than you swam across the border to pollute our clean country. Then I'd stomp your throat, mexican.

    You're not a real American, mexican boy. Go back to Mexico, no one invited you here. Andalay! Andalay!

  33. Luis Arreola, March 25, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.

    Kevin, I don't worry about what racists say. I know my worth and how rich our Mexican culture is when compared to others. Mexicans in the states should know more about their Heritage and show more pride. It's people like Cristian that give us a bad rap. They want to fit in because they are scared. Cristian's Spanish is probably very poor and it's easier for him to say I am American. Hey Mexicans, by that I mean anybody of Mexican descent, let's get educated and learn more of our Heritage and conquer our States back like California, Texas,New Mexico,Arizona,Idaho,Colorado and even take a few more for our brothers the Native Indians(The REal Americans). Texas, along with other states was taken from us in a war after our president at the time gave these "North American immigrants" permission to settle there. These "immigrants" became the majority in Texas. Quantity plus Quality equals success.

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