REPORTAJE ESPECIAL | FÚTBOL

Hispanic population in the U.S. comes together for football

Hispanic population in the U.S. comes together for football

Soccer fever is deep rooted in Europe, the Middle East, the Arab World and Latin America, although the romance between the United States and the sport is still a work in progress.

Estados Unidos

Soccer is a unique passion. The fireworks and flares, the colors and sounds, the chants surrounding the stadium and the beautiful roar of thousands of people united in one voice. It’s the heartbeat and desire, a whole’s nation dream. It's just like an explosion in the sky.

True love”, says the Borussia Dortmund’s slogan. “More than a club”, says Barcelona. You can call it either way: Football, soccer, futbol. It’s pure passion.

2014 World Cup galvanized a whole nation. Team USA was never as supported as that year. Soccer became interesting not just for Latinos.

Except for the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. is still reluctant to fall in love with football. Local and national clubs create a social bond, a sense of belonging, the search for an identity or patriotism, the defense of values and ideologies. Soccer recalls home.

The Latino community has taken refuge in futbol as a way to escape from the tedious daily routines: hard work, nostalgia, homesickness and the challenges of living in a different country. Latinos can’t seem to forget about futbol, despite being far away from home. They have taken their passion for it in their suitcases to come along with them in their new lives. The prominence of other sports such as basketball, American football, hockey or baseball doesn’t come in the way of the Latino’s passion for soccer. The MLS has evolved over the years and the top European clubs usually choose the U.S. to establish their summer camps and, actually, FIFA decided that America was the ideal place to host the 1994 World Cup, knocking down barriers along the way.

Andres Cantor, the renowned futbol broadcaster currently with Telemundo and popular among both Spanish and English speaking audience, thinks the Latino community “needs a window to refresh themselves: Futbol and television have become essential for them. Two decades ago, as a minority, we depended on a voice that wouldn’t talk to us. Now, that has changed”.

Miguel Angel Sanchez, a visual artist living in Los Angeles and college soccer player, notes that the game has contributed to social integration: “Latinos go the Mexican ‘fut’ matches for the fiesta, hunting for some autographs and spending the day with friends and family, even though they do not know a lot about the team they are rooting for. Soccer brings them closer to their homeland”.

As a whole, the Hispanic community is well established, they worry about each other, they unite to fight for their rights and care for other's needs. Soccer is a social builder: “Politics, deportations, ‘the American dream’, all of this brings Latinos together”.

Or as Cesar Martinez, a 3D designer also living in LA says: “We used to live in North Oregon and my brother’s soccer high school matches were broadcasted on local television. That had never happened before. Each day, there are more futbol players and fans”.

Martinez also emphasizes the role that fútbol has played in his life. He came in the US with just 5 years old. “Back then, the game was not popular at all. In fact, I sensed some racism during my first years here. Thanks to my passion for fútbol, I have met a lot of people. When the Mexican national team comes to the US, we all get united. For the World Cup, I've already planned to meet with family and friends to watch the games”.

Miguel Angel Sanchez notes that even though Mexico is not his family’s home country, Guatemalans, Hondurans or Nicaraguans tend to support ‘El Tri’

Which country will Latinos support during the World Cup?

With Team USA unable to qualify, some of the support will be divided among the rest of the Latin American countries playing in Russia. A survey published by AS USA noted that, despite the general belief, Mexico will not be the favorite national team among our readers. The distinction goes to Colombia (17.5%), followed by Argentina (16.22%) and ‘El Tri’ (14.8%) came in a surprising third place.

Nevertheless, the influence that Juan Carlos Osorio’s team exerts over the Mexican community in the States has been proved several times. There were 82.345 fans in the stands at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to bid farewell to ‘El Tri’ against Wales before travelling to Russia. The latest Sports Illustrated issue shows Hirving Lozano, Carlos Vela and ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez on its cover under the headline ‘America’s other team’. As a matter of fact, Mexico is the only national team in the world that plays two farewell matches in different countries.

Mexico is, indeed, “America’s other team”.

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