30 September 2006

El Clasico kicks off today

Club Deportivo Guadalajara - better known as Chivas and perhaps Mexico's most beloved squad - squares off against its archrival and the villain of Mexican futbol, Mexico City's Club America. The lacks a bit of the passion of previous years, mainly due to Chivas long-time malaise - not withstanding last year's fluke run to the semi-finals where it lost in the final minute to eventual champion Pachuca. Chivas hasn't won the Mexican league since 1997. It's Los Angeles-based sibling has fared poorly in two seasons of existence in the MLS.

America, a 10-time champion, wins regularly and fields a star-studded roster, although no player quite commands attention like temperamental striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who despite his skills, is viewed as a bad team player and was left off of the 2006 World Cup squad. (He's also considered one of Mexico's biggest nacos.) To use an American sports comparison, America is the Raiders, a team famed for its winning ways - well, not this season - rowdy fans and bad guy image. Boosting its loathsome image, broadcasting empire Televisa owns the team. The network heavily promotes the club and weens generations of fans on America propaganda through its kids programs - or so I'm told. A Grupo Reforma poll last year said America was Mexico's most popular team with Chivas ranking a close second.

Chivas, on the other hand, are the defacto national team; it only dresses Mexican players. Team officials figure 25 million fans follow the team in Mexico and another five million fans are in the United States. The squad also boasts a large fan base in Mexico City. In many ways, cheering for Chivas is a way of the provinces going against the powerful and influential capital. An old saying says, "In Mexico, you vote for the PRI, pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe and cheer for the Chivas." Basically, they're the good guys of Mexican soccer.

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