On and Off the Field, Mexican Soccer Icon to Spur Change

July 5, 2007

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The Chicago Fire is getting ready to add one of soccer's greatest playmakers to its roster.

But the team will have to wait a bit longer. Cuauhtémoc Blanco is leading Mexico into the Copa América quarterfinals this weekend.

When he finally joins the Fire, Blanco will bring more than just fancy footwork here.

Chicago Public Radio's Chip Mitchell reports.

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The Fire hasn't had a Mexican player since 1998.

When the team signed 34-year-old striker Cuauhtémoc Blanco in April, thousands of Mexicans converged on Toyota Park to greet him.

Omar López writes for Deportivo USA, a Chicago weekly.

He says Mexican soccer fans here focus on teams in their ancestral land.

LOPEZ: “The experience of the United States is not something they can relate to. By the Fire bringing in a player like Cuauhtémoc, that's integrating a very real experience of the Mexican immigrant into the life of Chicago.”

That integration will be unmistakable when Blanco celebrates goals.

His signature pose evokes Cuauhtémoc, the Aztec ruler after whom he was named.

Fire officials say Blanco could play here as early as next Thursday's match against Houston.

I'm Chip Mitchell, Chicago Public Radio.