In the days since the Gold Cup Final, I have heard conflicting reports about the atmosphere at the Rose Bowl. Complaints on the part of American fans have mostly been muted, but there have been some pretty serious accusations of violence and sexual misconduct on the part of fans of Mexico towards fans of the United States. If I was not in attendance, I would have to rely on the word of those who were there to get a sense of what it was like. However, I did attend the match, and I feel the need to give my experience in order to provide a more complete picture of what took place on Saturday.
First, I think it is necessary to establish my identity and location in the stadium. I am an American-born white woman in my 20s, with blonde hair, so fans of both countries could probably identify my race and nationality pretty easily. In the TV view, I was sitting near the goal on the right side, in the far corner, so I was not sitting in a box away from the crowd. I came to the game alone, took a shuttle from another point in Pasadena, and encountered absolutely no trouble that day from anybody. The section I sat in was full, like most of the stadium, and my section consisted of predominantly Mexico fans, although fans of the United States of various races were also in the section. I saw quite a few fans wearing U.S. jerseys who were attending with family and friends wearing Mexico jerseys.
There are a lot of Mexican American soccer fans who move in both circles and have divided loyalties. One of the most striking moments I saw from my seat was three Latino men who had jerseys that were half USA and half Mexico. Across the front of the fused jersey it said "Estamos Unidos" (We are united). They were a few rows behind me, but I heard at least half a dozen people ask them where they got them from, because they wanted to buy one for themselves. People were buzzing about how cool they were and how they wanted a jersey like that.
There were accounts that U.S. players were booed mercilessly and there were boos throughout the U.S. national anthem. The time when I heard the most boos was when the American players came out for warm-ups and returned to the field for the second half. The crowd sang heartily to the Mexican national anthem. There were some half-hearted boos at the beginning of the American national anthem, but those died out rather quickly and faint singing of it through the crowd could be heard.
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The taunting I heard during and after the game was benign. American fans sang "God Bless America" when I was waiting for the shuttle before the game, and nobody cared. When the U.S. was up 2-0, a few American fans turned to the fans of Mexico and smiled, waved, put a hand to their ear, but they did not get pelted with objects or start fights. A little boy wearing a U.S. jersey taunted a teenage boy wearing a Mexico jersey the entire time the U.S. was leading, but the teenager ignored him. When Mexico went ahead, the teenager did not taunt the little boy back, and the little boy kept his mouth shut. When I was waiting to get on a shuttle back to my car, fans holding American flags were teased, as Mexico fans said things like "Great game, huh?" and American fans smiled and walked on.
After the game, most fans, including me, stayed for the awards ceremony. Fernando Fiore was the announcer on the field, and he spoke primarily in Spanish, which isn’t such a surprise considering a Spanish-speaking team won, fans of the Spanish-speaking team were the people most likely to watch the awards ceremony, and most American fans probably shut off their televisions at the end of the game. But Tim Howard’s bitter comments after the game that the awards ceremony was conducted entirely in Spanish were false. Fiore spoke mostly in Spanish, but when he was talking about the United States, he spoke in English, and some of his remarks were in both Spanish and English. Fiore also asked the crowd to give the United States team a round of applause on two occasions, and the crowd applauded almost universally, and there were some cheers mixed in. And for English-speaking fans who were upset about the amount of Spanish in the awards ceremony, think about this: if the U.S. won, would the American announcer have spoken in Spanish at all? Almost certainly not. So I think Fiore’s handling of the awards ceremony was completely appropriate.
I do not want to presume that all fans had an identical experience on Saturday to mine. There were likely a variety of experiences, and I do not want to deny those that other people had. But I do not like the way that Mexico’s fans have been portrayed in relation to the Gold Cup Final, and I wanted to explain my experience. 93,000 people probably had 93,000 experiences, but I had a good time at the game and received absolutely no poor treatment. I will remember the day for the great game and the respect I saw among fans of both countries.