- Perspectives on the U.S.–Mexico Soccer Rivalry: Passion and Politics in Red, White, Blue, and Green ed. by Jeffrey W. Kassing, Lindsey J. Meân
Tension between the United States and Mexico started with the question of who owned Texas in the early 1800s. Today, immigration and border security pervade discussions in Mexico–U.S. relations. Soccer later evolved into an integral part of this relationship, as it offers both sides an opportunity to escape the often denigrating politics between the two [End Page 380] countries’ governments. Yet, as the essays in Perspectives on the U.S.–Mexico Soccer Rivalry examine, neither fans of the Mexican National Team nor the United States National Team completely evade politics, socioeconomics, and culture, as they factor into every aspect of the rivalry despite the popular insistence that politics and sport must remain separate.
This edited volume opens a necessary dialogue about relations between the United States and Mexico. As Roxanne Coche and Oscar Guerra witnessed and studied during a tailgate before the 2015 U.S.–Mexico match to determine who competes in the 2017 Confederations Cup, racism among fans more commonly comes from white males directed toward Mexicans and Mexican Americans (235). Though sport spawns passionate rivalries, this banter hinges on institutionalized nationalistic and racist language. Donald Trump espoused xenophobic discourse about Mexico and Mexican Americans to his constituents during his 2016 presidential election campaign and continued it during the first year of his presidency with more calls to build a border wall. This division within sports and politics alienates a section of the citizenry, especially for some Mexican Americans who struggle with “bicultural stress” (266). As Andres Martinez points out in his foreword, NAFTA ushered in a boom of “cultural exchanges” (ix). The contributors write about numerous instances of “cultural exchanges” such as the adaption of tailgating into the pregame ritual of Mexican and Mexican American fans before U.S.–Mexico games, the use of the offensive puto chant (further discussed in Patrick Thomas Ridge’s essay “Mexico ‘on Top:’ Queering Masculinity in Contemporary Mexican Soccer Chronicles,” 123–46) by non-Mexican fans (for instance, during the 2017 Gold Cup Final between the United States and Jamaica), or Gustavo Artigas’s staging of The Rules of the Game, “a simultaneous competition between Mexican soccer teams and American basketball teams” (ix, 199). Discussions of the Mexican and Mexican American fan experience are a common thread throughout many of the essays.
Andres Martinez’s foreword for Perspectives on the U.S.–Mexico Soccer Rivalry brings in that much-needed personal viewpoint of how Mexican Americans view the rivalry and how sport plays a role in the transnational relationship between the United States and Mexico. The essays enhance this perspective with a focus on the social aspects of the rivalry. Yet the editors wrongfully use it as the sole piece to tie all of the collection’s essays together. Subdivided into four parts—“Nation and Citizenship,” “Media and Representation,” “Mythology and Symbols,” and “Fans and Fandom”—this hefty volume covers several concepts for readers to digest without any concrete thesis or transition between the sections, such as a short introduction before each part. Even with these intriguing topics, the book lacks flow and reads more akin to a journal issue. A similar work also published by Palgrave Macmillan, Football and the Boundaries of History (2017), includes an introduction written by one of the editors. Nevertheless, this issue does not distract from the contributions of the writers.
Perspectives on the U.S.–Mexico Soccer Rivalry examines important deep-seated revelations about the long history between these two countries. One might not consider soccer a strong part of U.S. identity or culture, but its growth in the sport internationally has heightened this relationship and provides a new lens to examine the transnationalism offered by the global game. [End Page 381]