With the United States Men’s National Team having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia this summer, one of the most consistent messages U.S. soccer fans have had hammered at them is that they should support America’s “other team.” That other team, of course, being Mexico — the greatest rival of U.S. men’s team.
In any other soccer nation, the idea that in the event of your team failing to qualify, you should throw your support behind your most direct and bitter rival, would be verboten to the point of being sacrilege.
Try for a moment to imagine, for instance, Sky Sports telling England fans they should root for Germany or France the next time England fail to qualify for a tournament. Or telling Dutch fans to support Germany this summer in the absence of the Oranje, or urging Italy fans to back France. It. Just. Would. Not. Happen. In soccer — or, really, all sports — you don’t switch allegiance to your rival when your team doesn’t make it.
Well, apparently, no one got that memo to a certain Landon Donovan.
Yes, that’s right, you’re seeing this correctly. The former USMNT stalwart who was once so hated by Mexico fans that they hurled bags of urine at him is holding a green scarf and urging U.S. fans to support Mexico.
Disregard that the tweet is sponsored and obviously part of some kind of social media marketing initiative from Wells Fargo Bank, and just let that sink in for a moment.
Now imagine a similar tweet along the lines of, “Hi, this is David Beckham and I’m partnering with Barclay’s to urge you to cheer on France this summer.” It wouldn’t happen.
Donovan’s bit of sponsored Twitter diplomacy hasn’t gone down well with some quarters of the U.S. soccer community, including several of his former teammates. Among them, former USA defender Carlos Bocanegra, who won the 2002 and 2007 Gold Cups alongside Donovan.
And although he didn’t mention him by name, former USA striker-turned-pundit Taylor Twellman also doesn’t appear to be on Team Landon, at least when it comes to backing El Tri.
Donovan did attempt to clarify his position somewhat in a response to Bocanegra, who it should be said is heavily involved with the United States Soccer Federation currently.
Soccer rivalries are fraught and emotional by nature. In our current political climate, perhaps it’s hard to fault Donovan, who currently plays for Liga MX side Club Leon, in arguing for a little cross-border soccer diplomacy and neighborly support for our friends south of the border. You just have to wonder whether a sponsored tweet was the most appropriate venue.
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