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¡FUTBOL! — all the rest is secondary

1 June 2006

“Soccer is first. The craziness surrounding soccer is second. Then there is the rest of the world”

(Carlos Monsivias, Mexican author, critic, social commentator, all round intellectual and nerd, quoted in Gulfnews of Dubai)There was a posting on the “Lonely Planet Thorn Tree” message board the other day asking where in Mexico one could watch the World Cup on wide-screen TV. The answer is … anywhere there is a wide-screen TV. If you’re not committed to wide-screen, you’ll be able to watch it… anywhere. Every taco stand, newsvendor, “temporary” puesto along the street will have a portable TV turned to the matches.

Even the Virgin of Guadelupe, or Cardinal Rivera, on her behalf, gets in on the action. The Basilica received an autographed futbol to add to its collection of retablos:
In the 2002 World Cup (in Korea), the morning Mexico beat Italy, I was teaching a “Business English” course at General Electric’s headquarters in Polanco. According to the schedule, I had a training film to show, and the main conference room reserved. Given the time difference between Mexico City and Seoul, the games were shown very, very early in the morning. When I arrived at 7:30 AM for my 8:00 AM class, I discovered the conference room was in use — everyone from the CEO to the cleaning ladies were jammed into that conference room — no way there’d be a dull film on business meeting etiquitte.MEXICAN ETIQUITTE, por supesto, meant everyone brought “snacks” — i.e., enough tacos, tortilla, tamales, chips and refrescos to feed the Mexican Army. We did, in a way, have an English class. The Scotsman who taught another class at the same time taught the names of field positions in English and I, thanks to having attended a Catholic high school in a town where you picked your parish by ethnicity — knew plenty of rude English words for Italians. The students — and the CEO, and the cleaning ladies — at least got some kind of education that morning.As soon as the game ended, there was a Presidential Address — Don Chente and Martita were filmed in their living room (you could see the nachos and empty beer bottles on their coffee table) congratulating the team (of course) and… with a wink and a nudge… giving the disappointing news that it was a work day, not a national holiday. It might as well have been. The other stuff (i.e. work, life, politics) somehow has to adjust…

Firms worry World Cup will affect productivity:

During the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, absenteeism was over 10 percent. The games in this year´s tournament, which starts on June 9 and is being held in Germany, will be broadcast between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. – prime work hours. …

“Since the last World Cup, a lot of companies, taking into account that their workers love their team and religiously follow futbol, negotiated with unions to make sure workers came in at the most important times” said Jorge Monteagudo, head of the company AON Consulting….

“Thousands of Mexicans are sick of politics and the World Cup will be an important distraction.”

Monsters and Critics (a U.K site that seems to think Mexico is in South America) has a DPA wire report on how the presidential campaigns are bowing to reality:

Because Mexicans are crazy about football, the floodlights currently are aimed at the forthcoming events in Germany far more intensely than they are on political rallies and other events featuring candidates.

So it is no surprise that the candidates are leaning into the spotlight beamed at Mexico’s World Cup team to grasp some of the limelight. Mexico’s World Cup experience in Germany is fitting more frequently into political strategies for taking power in Mexico.

While campaigning, [Roberto] Madrazo {PRI-PVEM] passes out little calendars containing shortened names of the locations where matches will be played – because the entire German name would be a tongue twister for a Mexican. All matches, times and groups are listed from Munich to Berlin.

And there is a card for keeping track of tournament results. The slogan of the PRI is printed across the top: Alliance for Mexico.

The former mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, who had steadily led the polls for more than a year, now is speaking even more about football. …Recently, his handlers switched to a television spot showing AMLO with football scenes in the background. The words on the bottom of the image say: ‘Andreas Manuel, Mexico is your team’.

‘We cannot ignore that Mexico through and through is a football country,’ said a PAN strategist.

AMLO may have something of a problem, given that he’s a baseball guy. Rafael Guillien, aka Sub-Commandante Marcos, who is — of course — running “the other campaign” (meaning the ignored masses should ignore the elections — though it looks more like “Marcos” is the one being ignored) is a futbol kinda guy. He also recognizes (in a Rebeldia interview reprinted in NarcoNews) that making it to the semi-finals is the REAL CAMPAIGN:

There is no country up above colliding with either of those realities. In the Mexico of above, the country above, there is only simulation. A simulation that is betting everything on July 2nd and shouts at the mirror, “We are modern! We are modern!” Although the flesh that it has is rotting. Although this is the same story as before: 1968, all the stories of repression, those that are hanging like pieces of rotting meat in the face of what is being seen here. On the other hand, there is the soccer championship, that yes, has an impact below, but it begins and then it ends the same as July 2nd.

Meanwhile… the Associated Press reports Fox’s press secretary, Ruben Agular, is pleading with his countrymen to at least pay attention to the campaign:

President Vicente Fox’s spokesman on Tuesday urged voters in soccer-crazy Mexico to not let the upcoming World Cup distract them from the presidential elections in July.Spokesman Ruben Aguilar called on citizens to maintain “a measure of civility” and community spirit once the games begin June 9, just three weeks before the elections. Mexico’s first game is on June 11, against Iran.

Ranked sixth internationally, Mexico opens play June 11 against Iran. Pollsters say all three major presidential candidates already have trouble getting Mexicans to care about them – and that sharing the national stage with soccer will only make things tougher in the final weeks before the July 2 vote.

There are no games scheduled on election day, although two quarter-final games are scheduled for election eve.

What election?

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