The Blanco Era
Fin de una era.
End of an era.
The sports end is near for one of the greatest Mexican futbol players ever. Cuauhtémoc Blanco will take the field for the final time tonight. Blanco plays for Liga MX’s (Mexican League) Puebla, who is set to face league rival, Chivas de Guadalajara, in the final of Copa MX (Mexican Cup). The Copa MX final is a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for Blanco’s Puebla squad – the exact opposite of league leader, Chivas.
Leader Off and On the Pitch
While Blanco’s focus will be on the pitch tonight, he does have other aspirations off of it. Blanco is currently running for mayor in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. His mayoral campaign has been on hold as Puebla has made this Copa MX run. His nomination by the Social Democratic Party earlier this year surprised some, but not party president Eduardo Bordonave. “I believe he is prepared because he is a leader,” said Bordonave.
Blanco’s leadership is exactly why Puebla signed the 42-year-old. Leadership that has been sorely needed in a lost season for Puebla. The club currently sits 15th in the 18-team league, and last in the relegation table (a system that is based on outings over the last three years). Although never actually finishing last for the season, Puebla’s last three years have it looking at Mexico’s second-division, Liga de Ascenso, next season.
Man of the People
Tom Marshall is a longtime freelance fútbol writer who has covered Liga MX and the Mexican National Team. He has written for multiple outlets over the years including ESPN FC and Goal.com. I asked Marshall about Blanco’s career and his appeal to Mexicans from all walks of life. “It is a rags-to-riches story many in Mexico can relate to and even though he is obviously now very wealthy, the way he talks in interviews and the way he carries himself hasn’t really changed,” Marshall said. “You could tell he was a player who learned the game on the street. The prime example was the Cuauhteminha trick in 1998 (World Cup). That type of pure joy, passion and freedom he expressed on the pitch resonated with Mexicans, as did the fact he was raised in Tepito, one of Mexico City’s most notorious barrios, and sold pirated cassettes there as a teenager. I think Mexicans appreciate that.”
You don’t make it out of the barrios if you didn’t have a little edge to you. For as much as he could be entertaining on the field, he was just as entertaining off it too. “The stories in gossip pages about who he was dating, the appearances in telenovelas and the spats with various media personalities down the years helped build the legend,” said Marshall.
The first time I saw Blanco on tv I harkened back to some of my tíos (uncles). A little rough around the edges and not exactly a physical specimen. Ever so slightly chunky. Gordo, is what I thought (Gordo means “fat” – I know…it sounds better in Spanish). He reminds me of Argentina’s Angel Cabrera – a Masters winner.
In spirit of Angel Cabrera's annual Masters run, here's the greatest picture of him ever I took at the PGA in August pic.twitter.com/PxhQPfO7wJ
— Alex Busch (@alexbusch93) April 10, 2014
But, there was something about the way he played. He had a spark. A sly way about him in his demeanor…or that cheeky smile. He created mischief on the field despite his appearance. Added Marshall, “Even the way he is built, the fact he didn’t like doing weights and the smoking incident at the 2010 World Cup all add to his image as a player with frailties people could relate to. And despite those frailities, he became one of Mexico’s best ever players.”
However history remembers Cuauhtémoc Blanco on the field, Blanco will continue to write his own story off of it. Trying to sum up his career would take more words than I have space on this blog (joking, kind of). We may not see him on the pitch again, but you can be sure he will still have plenty to say off of it…and Mexicans will be sure to listen to “El Cuac”.
Mayor Blanco does have a nice ring to it.
Blanco’s final game airs on ESPN Deportes or Univision Deportes. Prematch coverage begins at 8:30pm ET.