So you think you've been Concacafed?

By Paul Kennedy

The Gold Cup is the tournament everyone loves to hate on, from the refereeing to the travel and playing conditions.

Michael Bradley put its best last week when he told reporters in Baltimore, "I say this with total endearment: It's a ridiculous tournament. Between the travel, the short turnaround between games, grass being laid over turf, the weather -- it's a huge challenge."

There's even a term for when something goes wrong at the Gold Cup: "Concacafed."

Costa Rica lost to Mexico in the dying seconds of overtime in Sunday's quarterfinals -- the Ticos were "Concacafed" if you will -- when Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez awarded El Tri a controversial penalty kick for an alleged push by Roy Miller on striker Oribe Peralta. The theory was that Concacaf needed Mexico and its fan support in the tournament so El Tri was given a break when American assistant Eric Boria flagged Miller for pushing Peralta.

The problem with that theory is that almost all the 68,000 tickets for Wednesday's doubleheader at Atlanta's Georgia Dome had already been sold by Sunday evening. It also assumes the call was wrong. Yes, Peralta fell theatrically to the ground and there was slight contact from Miller. But a lot of calls have been worse.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera would not buy the argument that his team got help from Lopez and his officiating crew.

"After so much trying [to score]," he said, "we deserved to win. I asked Oribe what happened, and he said Miller 'threw himself onto me.'"

The victory did nothing to relieve the intense media pressure on Herrera and his players. Perhaps to distract attention from rumors of discord between him and his players, El Piojo took a swipe at Concacaf organizers for the conditions of Mexico's charter flight from New York to Atlanta, where it will play Panama in Wednesday's semifinals.

"Mexico is the team that fills the stadiums and we are not being treated well," he told reporters. "We should be getting more consideration. We had to wait three hours, then they packed two teams and Concacaf people, I don't know why. We were all squashed."

Herrera is right about the first part. For its six games, Mexico has drawn 370,803 fans for an average of 61,800 a game. As for the travel, he should be used to it by now as Mexico always plays a heavy schedule of international matches in the United States, filling its federation's coffers.

El Tri has criss-crossed the country this summer, beginning in Orlando before traveling to Houston for pre-tournament friendlies, then to Chicago, Phoenix, Charlotte, New York and on to Atlanta for the Gold Cup proper. Win or lose on Wednesday, Mexico will finish up this weekend in Philadelphia, having logged 7,217 miles in a span of 26 days on the road.

Gold Cup travel wasn't always like this. The 1991 tournament, won by the USA, was played at the LA Coliseum and Rose Bowl. In 1993, the Gold Cup moved to Dallas and Mexico City. In 1996, it returned to Southern California for matches in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego.

You'd think organizing the tournament in one region would have been easy, but this is Concacaf you're dealing with. Its reputation for mismanagement was born at the 1996 Gold Cup, as chronicled by Soccer America's Mike Woitalla in a piece for When Saturday Comes.

After Trinidad & Tobago lost to the USA in Anaheim, its bus never showed up to take the players and staff back to their hotel. A group of T&T fans arrived to help get the team to its hotel. No sweat? Anaheim police mistook them for a bunch of hoodlums and had them spotlighted from a helicopter and brought in squad cars to investigate. T&T's day went from bad to worse when the players finally made it back to their hotel. They discovered that $50,000 in cash and jewelry was missing from their rooms, including $20,000 in expense money.

T&T players weren't the only ones left stranded. UEFA president Lennart Johansson, in town as a guest of Concacaf, was stuck at his hotel. His limo driver never showed.

Anything and everything went wrong with the organization of the tournament and just about every team was impacted. Honduras won't start its match against Brazil because organizers played the wrong national anthem. The Catrachos insisted on huddling together and singing the Honduran anthem into a field worker’s walkie-talkie for fans back home to hear them sing it.

The origins of the corruption scandals that have rocked FIFA this year go back to the 1996 Gold Cup as the lead actors from Concacaf and Traffic, via its subsidiary, Inter/Forever, were already in place organizing the tournament. It averaged 37,495 fans a game in its third edition. Even this year's tournament, the 13th edition, with an average of 32,703 fans a game hasn't drawn as well.

The tournament wasn't like it is today with all games live on Fox and Univision networks. Inter/Forever sold a pay-per-view deal to bars and restaurants so fans had to pay to watch the games. During one Mexico game, the picture was lost and fans at an LA establishment went nuts when they heard El Tri had scored. Bottles were thrown and gunfire exchanged, leaving one patron dead.

Tom Timmerman, then with the Los Angeles Daily News, wrote that the Gold Cup was as well organized as a bus crash. Doug Cress, who had been covering international matches in Los Angeles for a decade, said, “The pre-game ceremony is robbing one team, the post-game ceremony is robbing the other.”

Chuck Blazer -- yes, that Chuck Blazer -- took a different view, describing the tournament as a “tremendous public success.”

8 comments about "So you think you've been Concacafed?".
  1. Ric Fonseca, July 22, 2015 at 1:18 a.m.

    I had a "chance meeting" with Blazer around WC USA 94, and then, I wondered, just "wondered" how this giant of a person could, even then, yes my friends, then in WC USA '94, could a person like him could marshal so much attention and then while at the Las Vegas convention Center for the December '93 draw, I got a glimpse of him hobnobbing with the likes of Saudi Arabian princes and even on one occasion with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at Ceeser's Palace! Wow, if I could've been a soothsayer then, I'd be sitting pretty! As for getting Concacafed, now I know!!!

  2. Glenn Auve, July 22, 2015 at 7:17 a.m.

    I always thought "Concacafed" meant simply screwed by the referees, usually in favor of the home team. I didn't think it had anything to do with fixing things so that a team who sells more tickets did well.

  3. Daniel Clifton, July 22, 2015 at 9:30 a.m.

    I was watching the Mexico-Costa Rica game and it looked to me like Peralta was clearly fouled.

  4. Santiago 1314, July 22, 2015 at 10:40 a.m.

    Hey Daniel... Did you see that "Clearly Fouled" "Tijeras" RED CARD Scissors Tackle from Peralta.???...Player that Shouldn't have even been on the field,!!!..Takes Flop, on Slight Contact,... "Mexican Exceptionalism"... I like a Good Flop, but that wasn't even close...Even the Russian Judge only have him a 3.5 on that Dive, But hey,... He got a 10 From the Gringo Linesman and Guatemalan Ref, and that's what counts.... Just Win, Baby Win... Cause what Would a CONCAcaCrApF Final be, Without USA Beating Mexico.!!!

  5. Ric Fonseca, July 22, 2015 at 2:28 p.m.

    Hey y'all: During the last WC in Brasil, the hue and cry regarding the Dutch player "getting tripped up," or "taking a dive" in the PA, and then hear, to this day of "No fue penal!" (It wasn't a penalty!), well, now we can all say that this time around only a few days ago, one can really -I mean REALLY say that "No fue penal," applies in this instance! Though I've not read any comments on the fanthom "penalty!" Though I must say to my amigo Santiago 1314, don't start saying those things, or start the chant of "dos a cero." Wait 'till the "fat lady" has sat down and until the probably Costa Rican referee blows his final whistle...!

  6. Santiago 1314, July 22, 2015 at 4:57 p.m.

    Si, Si Señor Ric,.. Let's hope it's a Big Gringa Lady.!!!

  7. Santiago 1314, July 22, 2015 at 9:39 p.m.

    It must be Clear now, what my Secret Phone Number stands for… 1-276-387-4329 ... One-BRN-EVR-iDAY… YOU Suckers!!!... Did you think that there would not be a Play-Off Game.!?!?!?... This is CONCAcaCrApF… There was always going to be a Play-Off Game…!!!...ROSE BOWL 50/50 Split Seating…Riot Police, Tear Gas, Welcome to World Football….. “0”…”0”…”0”… For JK… and the Team…

  8. Santiago 1314, July 22, 2015 at 9:40 p.m.

    JUST SAYIN’….I Told you so… Posted From Game Winner vs Haiti…***Santiago 1314 commented on: July 20, 2015 at 11:38 a.m....Congrats to Giles Barnes, from Texian Army.!!! ... Question has to be asked???... How does Former English National Youth team player, Premier League...Slip thru the JK recruitment Screen.???...Came on free Tranfer Aug. 2012... humm.. No "Sprechen sie Deutsch"... Hope that doesn't come back to Haunt us.../// 07/22/15...Don’t be Surprised to see Barnes “Sold” back to England… Now we have Cubo… Viva Mexico.!!! …Out with the Jamaicans in MLS…We are Developing THEM, to Turn around and Beat Us..!!!..(Just Kidding)…After All, we are a “Development League”, even if it is to Beat Ourselves…

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