Take that Trump! Rafael Marquez scores late winner as Mexico stun US in World Cup qualifier
Awkwardly timed game comes after new president’s pledge to build a wall between the countries
Mexico captain Rafa Marquez said his winning goal in the 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over the United States could help the Mexican people forget the “intolerance” of the US Presidential election.
The 37-year-old glanced in a superb header from a corner in the 89th minute to leave the hosts stunned as their winning streak against El Tri in Columbus came to an end.
Asked whether the win was particularly sweet after the tensions caused by US President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial remarks about Mexican illegal immigrants, Marquez said: “Maybe now they have a bad time, a time of intolerance and with this win maybe they can forget now a little bit what happened here in the US.”
Given that the US had just elected a president pledging to build a wall between the States and Mexico and embark on mass deportations of illegal immigrants, it was an awkwardly timed meeting between the two.
“It was a long time that we haven’t had a good game [here],” added Marquez. “We are very happy and this is very important for us,” he added, referencing the run of four straight 2-0 defeats in Columbus in World Cup qualifiers going back to 2001.
Supporters mingled in friendly fashion before the game. Fans of both teams gathered in the parking lots to enjoy a traditional ‘tailgate’ party, drinking beer and grilling food – hot dogs and burgers for US fans and tacos for the visitors.
“When it comes to soccer, football. People come to a game to put all the other stuff away for 90 minutes. I anticipate that is how it is going to be here tonight – that is certainly why we are here,” said Eric Belmonte, who had driven from Louisville, Kentucky with friends.
Although the US chose to play at the relatively small, 24,000-capacity stadium of Columbus Crew, in order to enjoy home advantage in an area without a large Mexican community, there were plenty of fans of El Tri present.
“We were driving here and saw a car from Texas full of Mexican fans who had driven all the way here and I like that,” said Belmonte.
Some Mexican fans were drinking with friends supporting the US and insisted there was nothing political about the atmosphere.
“I think soccer is different it separates politics from everything else,” said Javier Lopez.
The main US supporters group – ‘The American Outlaws’ – issued a statement calling on its expected 8,000 hardcore fans to abide by their anti-racism policies.
“What we ask of each and every one of those in our sections and at our events is not much; just basic human decency: no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no discrimination, no physical or verbal attacks. It’s pretty simple. Follow this and you’re welcome in our sections and at our events,” the statement read.
“We will not tolerate any member or guest who cannot abide by what we’ve laid out in our Code of Conduct. Any one in violation ... will be subject to removal from our section and the stadium.”
An Outlaws Twitter account had strongly condemned one fan asking on the social media site if it would be permitted to chant “build that wall” if a free-kick was awarded – a clear reference to Trump’s policy of constructing a border wall.
Mexico striker Javier Hernandez had conceded however that a victory would be extra sweet in the circumstances.
“There are moments that are not so nice for some people. And [the election] wasn’t the best for Latinos and all of us, but life goes on,” Hernandez said.
“Sadly, that was the decision that the country took. If our game can give [them] some joy and take away the sadness they are going through, well good then,” he said.
The result gives Mexico the early initiative in the Concacaf region’s six-team final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The United States now face a testing trip to Costa Rica on Tuesday needing to pick themselves up after a shattering loss.