Landon Donovan – mas gringo

14 Jan

Landon Donovan, the US soccer ace, has set fire to Mexican public opinion. He appears in a TV ad for a Mexican lottery dressed in the costume of hyper-Mexican stereotyping – the large sombrero, the big mustache and the poncho. He attempts to sneak across the border, into Mexico, under the nose of a dozing Mexican border guard. Many in Mexico are offended. And it has come from the American they love to hate.

Donovan has stuck the boot in to Mexico before. Reportedly, he urinated on a Mexican soccer field after a game between the countries, and referred to Mexicans being jealous of Americans because America had everything and Mexico had nothing. In soccer terms, it follows in the tradition of glorious insult. Ronald Koeman, a Dutch player, simulated using a German opponent’s shirt to wipe his butt, after the German had swapped shirts with him at the end of a game. His potty act was prompted by the collective Dutch grievance towards Germany as a result of Nazi occupation during World War 2. Argentine legend Diego Maradona insulted Brazilian great Pele by claiming Pele had lost his virginity to a man, after the Brazilian had questioned Maradona as a role model for children. Diego liked cocaine and partying as much as he liked being the best soccer player in the world.

Those of us who saw Mexico play the USA in a World Cup qualifying game last year witnessed Donovan taking a corner kick under riot cop shields, as a hail of bottles, cans and urine bombs crashed down. According to reports, the USA dugout was shelled with trash and rocks throughout the match. Mexico and the USA are in a bitter soccer war. It could be argued Donovan’s aggression marks the arrival of US soccer on the world stage. Rivalry and grudge are very much part of a mature soccer tradition. No longer willing to submit to the mockery of the more established soccer powers, US players are giving as good as they get, getting stuck in, and US fans at games are no longer silent lambs waiting for slaughter.

Some commentators in Mexico have asserted that Donovan’s costume in the ad is so over the top it merits ridicule, and therefore is comic, and not insulting. This is the spirit of play.

Here’s the ad, make up your own mind.

Alan Black is the co-author of The Glorious World Cup due for publication in May 2010 (NAL/Penguin Books)


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