Soccer is tough. But those who play it, love it. At a soccer field in Pilsen, a few dozen teens from Cristo Rey High School are sweating it out during a muggy practice session. The artificial turf also doubles as a baseball field.
The teens switch squads and talk about European soccer during gatorade breaks. I ask four Mexican American teenagers who they’re rooting for during the World Cup.
“Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina,” the high schoolers say. These are second generation Mexicans who think the national team is on the losing end of the World Cup stick. 14-year-old Analysette Peña predicts Brazil. With an asterisk.
“I’m from Mexico so would I like to see them win? But we gotta face it,” says Peña. “There are other teams that put more effort than them and try not to make mistakes. So I’m going to root for the ones that actually deserve to win.”
These kids are not alone. Earlier this month at Soldier Field, the team showed why it may not make it far in the World Cup. Mexico disappointed its fans again, losing to Bosnia 1-0.
Herrasamo Sanchez is from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Like the other tens of thousands of Mexican fans at the game, he’s cheering for Mexico, but loyal to a certain point.
“Obviously I’m going to support my nation. But Brazil is going to take the World Cup," says Sanchez. “They’re going to win it.”
Mexico’s lackluster performance is being blamed on everything from multiple coaching changes in recent months to the loss of star midfielder Luis Montes Jimenez to an injury. Mexico’s poor play is impacting fans and sports vendors in the Chicago area.
In Melrose Park, the store La Cancha sport is preparing to close for the night. The co-owner says they’ve only sold only one Mexican national jersey all day. Jose Martinez came from Hammond, Indiana, to get shirts for a neighborhood league. Looking down as he speaks, he makes no attempt to hide his disappointment. Both as a Mexican national and as a businessman who lost money trying to sell Mexican shirts at the Soldier Field game.
“When they do well, people buy. When they don’t play well, they don’t sell," says Martinez. “Of course it hurts. They should be playing better.”
That’s when Carolina Reyes interrupts him. She drove from DuPage County to buy little league uniforms.
“When the team is losing, everyone’s a critic. But when they’re winning, everyone loves them,” says Reyes. "Win or lose, I’m Mexican and I’m rooting for Mexico!”
That’s when Martinez looks up and confesses: He plans to root for Mexico.