Media Misses Out on Liga MX Femenil Debut

The silence from women’s sports supporters was deafening.

A historic moment in women’s sports transpired recently.

In soccer.

If you went to the front soccer pages of the major sports sites in America during the event, you barely saw a mention of it – (ESPN FC excluded).

Not USA Today, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, SB Nation (you have to dig around for it), Sports Illustrated, Vice Sports – nothing, zilch, zippo, nada.

What am I referring too?

Liga MX Femenil

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Last month, I wrote a piece for The Shadow League discussing Major League Soccer’s attempts to combat racism in their sport. In it, I told the story of a mission trip to Mexico 10 years ago.

I described how our group went to a juvenile detention center and mingled with the residents in the large courtyard area. Being the sporty person I am – okay, not so much anymore – I readily joined in a volleyball game and then a soccer game (on concrete).

There is an undercurrent of machismo in the Mexican culture. In some areas it’s loud and pronounced, while in others it’s subtle. This center had a mix of both.

I didn’t care. I just wanted to play.

I played. I got knocked down. I got back up.

And, I proved myself.

They accepted me.

No small feat when you understand the culture. Most of the girls at the center didn’t want to play at all. Why?

Culture.

Culture can be a dictator. How it is, dictates how you will be. Culture in Mexico has often been the men play sports. Women stay at home, raise the children, cook, clean, etc.

It’s just how it is (was) down there. But, not in my Phoenix, Arizona home.

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Youngest child and third daughter of a single mom, sports was a normal thing in my house.

My siblings all played sports. I played sports. My mother loved sports of all kinds. Even in her 80’s, she still loves watching them today.

Whereas most women in sports media gained their love of sports from their fathers, I get mine from my mother. Her mother, from what I know, wasn’t into sports like her. I remember Grandma Margie as a tough firecracker of a woman who knew how to take care of her home while Tata John worked in their field. Whenever we visited, she was always cooking.

It’s a similar scenario for many families across Mexico, so it came as no surprise that many of the girls at the juvenile center didn’t participate in the games.

Fast forward to late 2016.

In December, it was announced that a new women’s league was being formed in Mexico.

Now, this wasn’t just any league. This was a league with the backing (think = $$$$) of the top flight league in men’s fútbol: Liga Bancomer MX. Eight of the 18 men’s teams fielded women’s teams for the inaugural Copa de La Liga MX Femenil tournament.

The teams, including tournament champion Pachúca, will do some touring now and during the summer before actual league play begins with the Apertura this fall.

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The backing of Liga Bancomer MX is key to the success of this league, as will the media coverage of it. That is why I was so interested to see how, if at all, media here in America would cover this tournament. 

ESPN FC covered it. SB Nation (sort of) did, but you have to do some digging to find their stories now. Where were the USA Today, New York Times stories? VICE? Even espnW? Think Progress? 

Unless I missed them, they were nowhere to be found.

Where were all the advocates for women’s sports? Where were all the people who take to Twitter any time someone disparages women’s sports? Where were those who talk about growing the game

Their silence was deafening. 

Was it because this was Mexico and not the United States? If the goal is to “grow the game” or increase opportunities for girls/women to play sports, then efforts need to be focused beyond this country. If the goal is to provide opportunities for women and girls to play sports, why wouldn’t you support a sport in a machismo culture? 

Lack of knowledge is no excuse. If you’re an advocate of women’s sports, you make it your business to know when girls and women are getting new opportunities to play sports. 

I’m not talking to those who aren’t advocates. I’m all for liking and watching the sports you want to watch. Don’t like women’s sports? Don’t watch and don’t blast those who do. Watch what you want. Support the sports you like. 

No, I’m talking to those who say they support women’s sports, yet ignore a prime opportunity for girls and women in our neighbors to the south. 

Make of it what you will. As for me, the hypocrisy doesn’t surprise me. I guess it’s too much to ask them to look past their own filters of knowledge.

 Can’t cross those “borders” now, can they? 

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EXTRA: To say there were a few that weren’t happy about it….well…let’s just say this would be a good time to learn how to use Google Translate. 

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Rio Rolls Away For El Tri Femenil

El Tri Femenil

In a matter of moments, Maribel Domínguez went from elation

to desolation

Domínguez and the rest of the Mexican women’s soccer team saw a dream end tonight. Their 2-1 loss to Costa Rica ended any hopes for the El Tri Femenil making it to Rio this summer. For Domínguez, it could mean the end of her international career.

The 37 year-old from Mexico City had it on her foot. A potential game-tying breakaway for the player nicknamed “Marigol” with moments left in regulation is all Mexico could ask for. Well, all they could ask with the players available. Sitting at home watching the proceedings this past week was perhaps Mexico’s best player: Charlyn Corral.

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Corral was left off the team by longtime coach, Leonardo Cuellar, after Corral was critical of his tenure with Mexico. Cuellar has been at the helm of the Mexican team since 1998. During his time, Mexico has only made it past the group stage once in either the World Cup or Olympics. More often than not, the team has failed to qualify for the respective tournaments. Even in tournaments where his teams have had success (Gold Cup and Pan-Am Games), Mexico was never able to win any of them during his reign.

In the 2015 World Cup, Mexico could only manage a 1-1 draw with Colombia, a 2-1 loss to England and a 5-0 pasting from France. Corral was on that Mexican team that finished last in its group in Canada. Acknowledging Cuellar’s contribution to Mexican women’s soccer, Corral added afterward, “…we need new ideas”.

Corral was left off Mexico’s Pan-Am Games and Olympic qualifying rosters.

She has since retired from national team play…at age 24.

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Exit Corral and enter Domínguez. Or, re-enter Marigol. A hat trick in the team’s 6-0 opening win against Puerto Rico notwithstanding, Domínguez’ return to El Tri highlights the problem with Cuellar’s tenure. Where are the young goal scorers? Where are the playmakers for Mexico? Where is the growth of the game compared to their neighbors to the north?

In a machismo culture like Mexico, it is a battle for women’s soccer. Promising young women grow their games in colleges and leagues across the United States and/or Europe. Or, they had to play like Domínguez did when she was young. As a boy.

“I tricked them for years,” Domínguez said in a 2005 interview with The Guardian. The youngest of ten, Domínguez, who learned the game from her brothers, would disguise herself with short hair to look like a boy. Eventually she was found out, but not before impressing her fellow players with her skills and estilo.

She helped propel Mexico to their first and only Olympic appearance in 2004. Although Mexico made it to the quarterfinals that year (a 5-0 loss to Brazil), Domínguez was the only Mexican to score in the entire tournament. Still, she was a star.

12 years later, Domínguez is still scoring goals for Mexico. And that is part of the problem says Pamela Del Olmo of Mexican website Talacheros. Del Olmo said on the Mexican Soccer Show, “If you have to rely on a 37 year-old to get you through a tournament, you’re doing something wrong.”

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Once thought to be in the top three of the CONCACAF region, with today’s loss to Las Ticas, Mexico finds themselves dropping down in the pecking order. “Costa Rica has passed us,” said Del Olmo. Former Mexican team player, Pamela Tajonar concurred via Twitter,

Mexico’s women’s team is watching the rest of the region (and world) catch up, and in some cases, surpass them. In its current state, El Tri Femenil is failing. There is no progress forward. No action put into spoken words about growing the game. Cuellar seems to be out of answers. The demand for change or improvement falls on deaf, machismo ears.

What will it take besides cultural change? With no important competitions on the horizon now for El Tri Femenil, what now? Until Mexico places an importance on the women’s national team, they will continue to watch others like Costa Rica roll past them in the region.

Just like Domínguez’ last shot.

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Don’t Mess With National Pride

In a simple tweet, the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) earned social media notoriety. 

Mexico and the Netherlands battled on the pitch in a World Cup knockout round match. Mexico held the lead for much of the game, but two late goal, one a penalty, helped the Dutch move on to the quarterfinals. 

The World Cup is unlike any other tournament on the planet. It’s unlike any sports league here in America. There is team pride. But, then there is national pride. National pride is on the line in the World Cup. And, you don’t mess with national pride. 

Initial reaction to the tweet was “oh my”. It was opportunistic humor. Part of me thought it was funny. But, part of me thought it was Twitter-trolling at its finest. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Delta received flack for a seemingly innocent tweet. People were up in arms over Delta’s representation of Ghana with a picture of a giraffe. A stereotypical assumption many said. Understandable perspective. 

To be clear, Delta’s tweet did not appear to be trolling Ghana. Lack of awareness? Yes. But, not trolling. 

By adding the “Departures” picture with an “Adios Amigos” immediately after the Netherlands victory, that’s pouring salt in a fresh wound. Painful. Heart-ripping. Right to the soul. 

And that’s how it is for sports fans. “We” give our souls to our teams, living every victory and dying with every defeat. Many fans define their very identity in their teams.

But, national teams are different. There is no “defining” necessary. Our national team represents our nation. They represent us. By birth or citizenship, we become part of it. They wear our colors. When they win, an entire nation “wins”. When they lose, the nation feels the loss too. At this stage of the tournament, the knockout round, it’s only amplified. 

Was the KLM offensive? Everyone has their own, personal take. The @ mentions I read mostly found the humor in it. Some didn’t. Apparently, KLM has already deleted the tweet. Considering KLM flies into Mexico City, it’s probably a good move, although the damage has been done. 

Here’s one last scenario to think about. One that could take place anywhere: NFL, NBA, NHL, EPL, MLS, MLB game. Wherever

You and your business partner (or neighbor or boss or ____) attend a game. You cheer for one team, they cheer for the other. Win or go home. Hard fought. Emotions high. The two of you were fully invested in the game. Questionable officiating throughout the game, including the end. Your team wins. You win. You turn to “your” opponent next to you and scream, “SEE YOU LATER, FRIEND” & point to the exit.

You cheer and laugh and dance with pure joy. Then you realize how bad they feel and say, “Sorry, man. That was a great game. Your team made it tough.” You talk it out. While they were angry for a few minutes, they see your happiness AND that you understand how they feel. 

THAT’s what we don’t get with the KLM tweet. We only get the trollish-feel to it. We don’t get the follow-up of talking it out. We only get the “SEE YOU LATER” screamed at us in the form of “Adios, Amigos”. 

Will everyone agree? No. I see both sides of it. Funny or not, the Royal Dutch Airlines found out the hard way that funny isn’t always funny when it comes to national pride. 

UPDATED: Hat-tip (h/t) to Twitter user @amolkold for this tweet from AeroMexico (a SkyTeam partner of KLM). Still no apology from KLM on their Twitter feed as of 1:30pm PT.

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U.S. Soccer’s #ShotsFired Tweet

On any given day in the sports Twitterverse, one may come across the hashtag #shotsfired. #ShotsFired applies when someone in sports makes a critical comment toward someone else, be it a person, team, conference or league. Usually, the comment is NOT unintentional. All’s fair in love and sports. Especially through Twitter.

Here’s an example of what you may see on a given day:

Although there are times when intent and context can get lost in Twitter, especially with retweets (RTs), when it is an original tweet, there’s not much doubt as to its intent:

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Last night’s World Cup Qualifying action in CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) action was thrilling. It was the final chance for teams to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Heading into the night’s action, the biggest surprise was that World Cup stalwart Mexico was in danger of not qualifying.

The line-up for last night’s games:

  • USA @ Panama
  • Mexico @ Costa Rica
  • Jamaica @ Honduras

The scenario for Mexico:

If the USA were to win, Mexico would qualify. If Panama were to win, Mexico would have needed a result against Costa Rica to qualify either third or fourth, depending on the Jamaica-Honduras result.

All games took place at approximately the same time last night. All’s fair, remember? Watching the games and through the eyes of Twitter, the intensity magnified as time wore on. Honduras would jump out to a quick lead against Jamaica, only to see it tied up two minutes later. Panama put the pressure on and went up on the USA. It wasn’t just the USA under pressure as that goal plus Costa Rica’s goal shortly thereafter tightened things up for Mexico. Thankfully for Mexico, they went into halftime with a 1-1 tie. Jamaica and Honduras were tied at 2 while Panama held that 1-0 lead over the USA.

Then all hell broke loose.

In the 63rd minute, the United States scored to tie Panama, 1-1 AND Costa Rica got their second goal against Mexico. End-to-end action, particularly in Costa Rica-Mexico, glued people around the world to their television sets, laptops and mobile devices. 

And then…Panama scored in the 83rd minute to make it 2-1. They were on their way to the World Cup.

Dreams crushed!

The USA’s victory helped bitter rival Mexico live to see another World Cup day. They will face New Zealand in a home-and-home series next month. Panama meanwhile…

ESPN’s Bob Ley summed up the night:

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As Fox Soccer Trax tweeted, the U.S. men “saved Mexico’s bacon”. The U.S. and Mexico have a long bitter soccer history. For the U.S. to “help” Mexico on their World Cup quest was hard for some to swallow. In the Hispanic-American/Mexican-American community, it could be seen as a victory but fans of “El Tri” had to find it a challenge to “cheer” for USA.

It is that history that brings me back to the U.S. Soccer tweet above. Considering the dire straits Mexico had put themselves in up to last night, they desperately needed a win by the U.S. men. Desperately.

People say they like team accounts having fun on Twitter. The LA Kings’ Twitter account is notorious for bringing a little flair to their tweets. Poking the bear, if you will. But, that’s in the National Hockey League. As passionate as fans are about their professional sports teams, they pale in comparison to national team pride.

Is a national team Twitter account having fun like U.S. soccer did in poor taste? Whether it was or not, that’s for you to decide. Keep in mind, it’s been RTd over 81,000 times as of this writing:

US Soccer#SHOTSFIRED? I think so! 

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