Fans wave the flags of Mexico and the United States before a friendly soccer match in Philadelphia in 2011. The match ended in a 1-1 tie.
Fans wave the flags of Mexico and the United States before a friendly soccer match in Philadelphia in 2011. The match ended in a 1-1 tie. Tom Mihalek/AP
Tonight, my wife and I will argue. There will be hurt feelings. She knows it. I know it.
I live in a mixed-status family. My wife roots for the Mexican national soccer team. I root for the USA. My oldest child sides with her mother in this debate, and we are all still working on the youngest.
The U.S. national team and their Mexican counterparts take the field tonight in Columbus, Ohio, for a crucial match. Defeat could cement Mexico's downfall and shut it out of next year's World Cup. The situation of the U.S. team is only a little less dire.
The first time my wife and I argued about a match was during our honeymoon, which coincided with the 2002 World Cup. It was the knockout round of 16, with the U.S. and Mexico facing off in South Korea. My wife was genuinely shocked to discover that I was rooting for the U.S. She seemed to think it was disloyal of her newlywed husband. I swore that my love for her was true blue. And I swore I felt the same way about my citizenship and my passport.
I am Cuban-American and came to a love of soccer (football, really) as an adult. I can tell you exactly when and where I fell for the game. It was after I moved to Buenos Aires. I was covering the exorcism of the local Racing (pronounced RRRAH-sing) football club shortly after my arrival. I was crazy impressed by the fervor of the fans crossing the field on their knees with rosaries in their hands, praying to the Virgin Mary for deliverance from the bottom of their division. (Racing lost the match that immediately followed the exorcism, 1-0.) For me, becoming a Racing fan was an act of romanticism and identification with Argentina. *
My wife is the real die-hard football fan of the family. It runs in her blood. Her grandfather was a goalie for the first soccer club in Mexico, Pachuca. And I've adopted her fandom for Pachuca. There are no household disagreements on that front.
In Central and South America, allegiance to a soccer club is largely determined by your parents before you are born. In the states, team loyalties are often shaped and set by your hometown. But, still, there is more fluidity in your team allegiances here than in Latin America.
I root for Racing when I am in Argentina and root for Pachuca when I am in Mexico. But, I root for the U.S. national soccer team at all times and wherever I may find myself. When it comes to soccer, there's a limit to how much I am willing to code switch.
*A love for Racing (La Academia) is a key plot development in the achingly beautiful El Secreto de Sus Ojos, which won the Academy Award for best foreign film in 2010. This scene, in particular, captures the intensity and sense of inevitability that accompanies being a fan of Racing. (The clip is in Spanish and unfortunately does not feature subtitles.)