Are you ready for Copa América Centenario*? No? It’s OK, here’s a quick overview of which players you should follow throughout the tourney, along with the MOST IMPORTANT details you need to have a conversation with friends. You can thank us later.
If someone asks who you think will win it all, your best bet is Argentina. Their best player? Messi, of course.
This tourney is being held in the U.S., which is basically a second home for Mexico. Javier “Chicharito” Hernández will look to lead them to victory.
Although Neymar won’t be playing at this tournament, Brazil is always dangerous. Especially with a guy named Hulk on the squad.
Colombia will be looking to improve on their impressive World Cup 2014 run, led by star James Rodríguez.
If you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, his name is pronounced “HAH-MEHZZ.”
With teams like Argentina and Brazil in the mix, Uruguay often gets overlooked. But they boast one of the best strikers in the world — Luis Suárez.
And you can’t count out Chile, the winners of the previous Copa América. Their midfield general is Arturo Vidal.
And of course, the host country, USA can’t be counted out completely. Tim Howard was their standout player at the 2014 World Cup — this year, he may be watching from the bench, but his leadership may still be felt.
*Copa América Centernario is the 100th anniversary of the Copa América fútbol tourney, where teams in the South American soccer confederation (CONMEBOL) face off every four years to see who’s the best of the best. Teams like Mexico, which are not part of the South American confederation, are usually invited to participate as special guests. This year, several North American teams have been invited to participate, including Jamaica, Costa Rica and Panama. The tournament is usually only held in South America, but this year it’s being hosted by the United States because A. It’s a special occasion and B. $$$.
On July 7, the U.S. Women’s National Team went up against the Netherlands Women’s National Team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup and USWNT took home the championship cup. During the team’s victory speech in New York, U.S. women’s soccer star and forward, Megan Rapinoe, said, “We got white girls, black girls, and everything in between.”
However, Rapinoe should have thought twice before making that statement. After all, what exactly did she mean by “everything in between” if the U.S. Women’s National Team didn’t feature a single Latina woman on its roster this year?
Rapinoe’s comments recently inspired a Los Angeles Times story about an L.A. girls soccer club trying to make the face of women’s soccer.
Columnist Bill Plaschke spoke to young soccer players from the Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club, whose team is mostly made up of Latina athletes “facing economic and cultural battles that have long kept them on the soccer sidelines.” The Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club is made up of 175 girls trying to change the face of women’s soccer that has historically been dominated by white women.
This critique of the U.S. Women’s National Football Team is not new. When they also held the title for world champions in 2017, NPR’s Latino USA published an article “Why Is Women’s Soccer so White?”
Audio producer and journalist Michael Simon Johnson writes, “The United States women’s national soccer team is far from a beacon of diversity, especially when compared to their male counterparts. With few women of color––and no Latinas––the team is extremely white, in spite of soccer’s entrenched place in Latin American culture.”
However, the issue isn’t that young girls of color aren’t interested in playing the sport.
But rather, as NPR notes, “youth soccer’s play-to-play system favors not necessarily the most talented children, but the children of parents who can afford elite clubs’ steep fees.” Club soccer fees run from $2,000 to $5,000 annually, per the Los Angeles Times.
That’s where Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club comes in. Their club president Mick Muhlfriedel helps run the all-volunteer operation out of a middle school field in Pico-Union. According to Mulhfriedel, “some of the girls contribute $25 a month. Most pay nothing.”
Since the 1991 World Cup, there have been 12 women of color on the U.S. World Cup or Olympic teams.
“Add in the lack of diverse role models and access, transportation issues and the cost, the number of obstacles facing girls of color in the game of soccer becomes poignantly evident. Although progress has been slow, there has been progress. It would be remiss to not acknowledge some of the black players who are trailblazing on the field,” writes Stephanie Taylor of Girls Soccer Network.
She writes that race was something most people on the teams she played didn’t want to discuss or even acknowledge.
“Over most of my 20-year career, I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable some teammates were around certain coaches or officials. Most players wanted to represent the US, to be at the Olympics or the World Cup, and they’re proud to be on the team. So they kept quiet. But those conversations with teammates who felt things were off, means race is an issue we need to discuss a whole lot more,” Solo writes. “The numbers are very clear. We need more men and women of color to represent US national teams. So few players of color representing the USWNT means there are great athletes across the country we are ignoring.”
The Los Angeles Times also cites that according to NCAA reports from 2017-2018, only 8% of female soccer players were Latino women. This is why it’s so important to not only advocate for young Latina athletes but also help mobilize the conversations further surrounding not only gender parity’s in professional sports but also race.
In the last two years, the Downtown Los Angeles Soccer Club has won three of their eight major tournaments and made it to the finals three other times. This fall, the Los Angeles Times writes that they’ll compete in the prestigious Premier division of the Coast Soccer League and compete in the California Regional League.
The young Latina soccer players from the Down Los Angeles Soccer Club seem to be resilient soccer players passionate and determined.
More importantly, they seem resolute in their efforts to change the face of future World Cup and soccer matches that take place on a national stage.
Here’s to hoping we see some of these young talented players giving that victory speech or holding the cup in the future.
U.S.-based Mexico fan group Pancho Villas’ Army has inserted a “no goalkeeper chant” clause into the group’s membership and made abstaining from shouting the anti-gay chant a condition for buying tickets for games in their section, in a bid to help put an end to the chant often heard in stadiums when the Mexico national team plays.
This could be progress towards finally ending the homophobic chant heard all too often at Mexican football games.
The group, Pancho Villa’s Army, made the announcement banning its members from yelling the chant.
In an open letter to its members, the group says: “One area where I think we can improve upon is the infamous PU%* Chant. For me and many others, it is no longer relevant to debate what the word means or doesn’t mean. Its simply a matter of respect and common courtesy. We should do our best to be good guests at all the stadiums that welcome us.”
The group notes that fans already follow several other rules. So what’s another rule if its meant to make sure everyone feels more comfortable.
The group has even added the rule into its code of conduct. In their letter they add: “Moving forward, we will adopt a “No Pu%^ Chant” clause into our membership rules and code of conduct. While our code generally covers the chant we will specifically list it as unacceptable conduct. The same clause will be inserted into our ticket purchases pages. We already informed all PVA ticket purchasers that our section is a standing, cheering, and singing section. The same page will now inform potential PVA ticket purchasers that our section is a NO PU&% CHANT section too.”
All of this comes as the Mexican team and Mexican fans come under increased scrutiny for the homophobic slur.
A section of El Tri fans regularly shout an anti-gay slur as the opposition goalkeeper runs up to take his goal-kick and the federation has been fined on multiple occasions by FIFA because of it, although it was stamped out at Russia 2018 after an educational campaign from the federation, fan groups and players, as well as the threat of Fan IDs being taken away.
But the chant was heard regularly during Mexico games in the United States this summer at the Gold Cup.
Fans that have bought tickets for Mexico’s game on Sept. 10 against Argentina in San Antonio, Texas and don’t want to adhere to the policy will receive a refund for their tickets.
The group says the decision is about being inclusive of all fans, including those from the LGBTQ community.
“It’s about people joining who wish to create an environment that feels welcoming to our LGBTQ Mexico fans,” reads the statement. “As an organization that has LGBTQ leaders and members we take this charge very seriously.”
The reaction on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive with soccer fans from around the world celebrating the announcement.
Most on Twitter were thrilled that at least one group was taking the steps necessary to address the issue. They’re going directly to their members and making it a condition of membership to stop using the chant.
FIFA has warned soccer federations all over the world, including Mexico, that discriminatory chanting will activate the “three-step procedure” that could lead to the abandoning of World Cup qualifying matches if the chant is heard. The referee would first stop the match, then suspend it and eventually abandon it if the discriminatory behavior doesn’t cease. Yet at nearly every game of El Tri you’ll still hear the chant.
Many pointed out that PVA will be on the right side of history with this new rule.
Despite there being an ongoing debate among fans if the chant is meant to be homophobic or not, people are realizing that all fans should be comfortable – and, yes, that includes those from the LGBTQ community.
And as one of the first fan clubs to issue an official rule, Pancho Villa’s Army will have been seen as a leader on this issue. So bravo PVA! And thank you.