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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Soccer just the latest source of Mexico's unease

David Faitelson

MEXICO CITY -- I have heard all sorts of nonsense about Mexico's national team in the past few hours: a Plan C that would involve Ricardo La Volpe, an agreement with CONMEBOL in the event of a wild-card game and many theories on the "tragedy," which only confirms and reconfirms the uneasy atmosphere of these past few hours.

There is an instance in which everyone seems to agree, and in which they become practically identical: The collective nervousness turns into a fear that creeps into the minds of all with a stake in Mexican soccer. For Mexico, the countdown has begun.

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And on the streets, a simple question confirms the suspicions of public opinion: "Will we be able to win on Wednesday?" they ask me, as if I wasn't entrenched in the same habitat or vulnerable to the same doubt.

The 5-0 victory over the United States in the Gold Cup final wasn't enough. The Mexican fan knows the outlook for Wednesday's latest match with the Americans can be completely different, and that nothing guarantees that Mexican soccer has left its most sour days in the past.

The best question asked of me came on Reforma Avenue on Monday: "What happens if Mexico doesn't qualify for the World Cup?"

I was left there, thinking and looking to the horizon while searching for some kind of answer in a petrified Angel of the Independence, incapable of uttering a single word. I shrugged my shoulders and said: "Nothing should happen."

Because that will be exactly the case if Mexico doesn't qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa: nothing. Mexicans will go to work every day with the same effort, the same drive and the same dreams of a better country -- to overcome our safety concerns, to leave behind the inequities and insecurities that are now a part of our daily lives.

In the past 40 years, Mexico missed the 1974, 1982 and 1990 World Cups (eliminated in the first two and disqualified for cheating in the third), and the tournaments went on. Germany won the championship in two of those tournaments, and Italy won in Madrid. Nothing happened. Hear that?

Nothing happened.

Mexican soccer is accustomed to failure. It has never won anything. As fans, we have fed our illusions about how close Mexico has come, how possible future success might be. The result: tension, fear, bitterness. Once again, nothing will happen. If Brazil, Germany, Italy or even Argentina misses the World Cup, the tournament will lose a major protagonist. But if Mexico doesn't show, nothing happens.

I sense tension, nervousness, distrust, even fear in the soccer streets of Mexico. But it's nothing new for this faithful, stoic and generous country. Nothing really happens.

David Faitelson hosts "Viernes de Combates" on ESPN Deportes and is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.




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