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Mexico Vs. Paraguay: Rafa, Take A Bow

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(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

The mess surrounding whether or not Rafael Marquez officially completes a century of appearances for Mexico against Paraguay seems oddly in line with the player's status in his homeland.

The completion of 100 caps at international level is usually preceded by massive press hype but Marquez's milestone has passed by with very few column inches dedicated to it.

One explanation is that there is a doubt whether a match Mexico played against a Hong Kong league XI should qualify as an official game or not. FIFA say not but the Mexican Football Federation say it does and will present Marquez with a commemorative trophy of his 100 games before the game against Paraguay.

The whole issue has overshadowed what should be a celebration of what the "Kaiser of Michoacan" has achieved both for the Mexican team and while playing abroad but there is another reason for the lack of talk time given over to Marquez' achievement.

Mexicans have never taken to 32-year-old Marquez in the same way as players like Hugo Sanchez, Javier Hernandez, Jorge Campos, Claudio Suarez and Cuauhtemoc Blanco despite his success.

"He's picked up a Spanish accent," was one of the (unfounded) complaints Mexicans had when the Atlas youth team product had spent years playing for Barcelona.

"He doesn't try hard for Mexico," is another, along with: "He gets booked and sent off on purpose for the national team to get suspended so he doesn't have to come back to Mexico to play."

All are untrue.

It's also possible he hasn't received the same level of adoration because he is a straight speaker and maybe says things that Mexicans don't like to hear.

"Mexico has to change its mentaily if it is to grow as a country," said Marquez before the World Cup 2010 game against Argentina. "There's always pessimism. Sometimes we don't have the credibility, we can't count on that advantage other countries have."

Of course, there has been no better Mexican player than Marquez over the last fifteen years and possibly even longer, depending on personal points of views. Four Spanish league titles and two Champions League winners medals speak for themselves. Hugo Sanchez won the Spanish league five times but never lifted the Champions League trophy (then the European Cup). Marquez has also played more World Cup games than any other Mexican.

A commanding presence for Atlas, Monaco and Barcelona and a crucial part of the national team since he made his debut in 1997, there has to be a case that Marquez is one of the two or three greatest Mexican players ever. Check the video below if you've forgotten the sheer class he exuded and to a lesser extent still exudes.

That is why, whether it is the 100th cap or not, Rafa deserves all the accolades he is receiving and probably a hell of a lot more.