The US and Mexico compete tonight in the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas Nevada. It will be the first time these two countries have played each other since the infamous CONCACAF Nations League Final on June 6, a match that was marred with controversy due to inappropriate conduct from fans in attendance. So why does this 2021 Gold Cup Final have all the elements to be anything but uneventful? In order to understand the gravity of the situation you have to go back two months ago.
After a year without any live sports, the public got a firsthand look at the rivalry between the US and Mexico with fans returning in attendance at the Denver Bronco’s Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado for the CONCACAF Nations League Final. A match that was good, bad, and everything in between. While the US won 3-2 in the second half of extra time, the match also was mired by more sinister events off the pitch.
During stoppage time in regulation, match officials had to stop the game for 3 minutes as part of CONCAF’s new anti-discrimination protocol due to anti-gay chants. The unruly behavior continued and at the end of the match five individuals were arrested by stadium security and local police. Four for trespassing on to the field and one for throwing a projectile on to the field. This wasn’t the first time a match had to be stopped for homophobic chants. Just three days before the Nations League Final, Mexico’s Semi-Final match against Costa Rica also had to be suspended temporarily.
The use of homophobic chants whenever El Tri plays stems as far back as the early 2000’s. It’s been a problem and FIFA hasn’t entirely cracked down on the Mexican Futbol Federation (FMF). The Los Angeles Times reported that FIFA fined the Mexican Federation 9 times leading up to the 2018 World Cup. With a disciplinary protocol created two years ago for referees to end matches if they see any chants or behavior that was homophobic or racist, FIFA hoped it would quell the inappropriate behavior.
Unfortunately, the events at the Nations League Final Match gave CONCACAF a black eye and FIFA felt further action needed to be taken. The Mexican Futbol Administration were not only fined but punished further having to play 2 World Cup Qualifier Home Matches with no spectators allowed in attendance. A move some feel that FIFA were late to act upon.
Throughout the United States Mexico’s soccer rivalry, there has been nothing short of heroes, villains, terrific goals, and hallowed stadiums for both countries. Also included is the sinister stuff that’s tarnished this rivalry. Rivalries are good for sport particularly in soccer where great moments for either a club team or national team become greater for the supporters that rally behind them. The emotional highs become higher but so do the lowest of lows. Unfortunately, not everyone handles either the winning or losing well. When emotions and tempers do fray spilling out, it leaves the rest of society questioning is this fanaticism for a sports team this appropriate and healthy in society as a whole?
Tonight’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Final is a sequel to that Nations League Final back in June. Everyone will be watching.