If you’ve been keeping up with the biggest news in the soccer world, you must know the World Cup is currently going on in Russia. You probably also know that the United States failed to qualify for the biggest international soccer tournament. One team that did in the expense of the Yankees is the Red, White and Blue’s biggest international rivals, Mexico.
Just before the kickoff of El Tri’s opening game of the World Cup on Saturday against defending champions Germany, former United State National Team captain Landon Donovan tweeted out something rather peculiar.
The tournament is here! USA fans, our team may not be in Russia, but our neighbors to the south are. So join me and their proud #sponsor @WellsFargo to cheer on our other team, Mexico @miseleccionmxEN. ¡Vamos México! pic.twitter.com/YIifLGCT0D— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 16, 2018
While it seems like a nice, albeit purchased, message about supporting another regional team on the surface, cheering for Mexico is something U.S. soccer fans don’t do. The two countries have been bitter rivals for decades, and it goes beyond the soccer field to an actual dislike, dating bating to Mexican fans throwing bags of urine and batteries at American players during games at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
Because of this, the backlash against Donovan’s tweet was intense with former teammates, guys who went to battle with Donovan against the Mexicans many times, showing their surprise at Donovan giving his allegiance to the USA’s rivals for a sponsorship deal.
Really? https://t.co/nlhHJ8CUNG— Carlos Bocanegra (@BocaBoca3) June 16, 2018
“I didn’t see that coming, I’ll say that,” Columbus Crew SC midfielder Wil Trapp told Massive Report on Monday. “But for the most part, he plays in Mexico now. He probably is closer with some of those players and the country. So I don’t have much to say about it other than it was something that happened.”
Trapp, a Crew SC Homegrown player, has recently become more involved in the national team and captained his country in a number of recent friendlies. Despite having experienced a thrill that he and Donovan share, wearing the USA armband, Trapp was not nearly as offended as some others.
“I could see it bothering a lot of people,” he said, “but for me it was his choice, so I’ve got nothing to say.”
To clarify, Donovan, who played in Major League Soccer for 15 years and was capped by the U.S. National Team 157 times, now plays in Mexico’s Liga MX for Club León.
Since the initial tweet and the backlash that came with it, Donovan has backtracked a bit.
June 17, 2018
I reflected on the tweet I made over the weekend and realize it was impulsive and inappropriate. I made a mistake and have removed the tweet. Let’s get back to the games ⚽️⚽️⚽️— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 18, 2018
Trapp wasn’t the only Crew SC player to speak with Massive Report about Donovan’s tweet. Black & Gold defender Josh Williams also shared his thoughts on the confusing pledge of allegiance.
“To me it’s just kind of ‘What are you doing?’ I’m assuming there’s a lot of money that they threw at him. But someone who captained the national team and someone who has played in fierce games -- and I know he’s actually treated well there, so I’m sure that’s something to do with it,” Williams began.
“He said he was born in Los Angeles. He grew up around a lot of Mexican families, a lot of Mexican influence on his game he said. So I’m not going to sit here and try to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. But at the same time, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to do that. It didn’t seem like the greatest move.
“To me what stood out was his former teammates calling him and questioning what he was doing. To me, do what you need to do, but at the same time, if my teammates start questioning what’s really going on, my former teammates who I’ve battled with, then I’d rethink it. To each their own though.”
While Williams has never represented the U.S. National Team, Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter did 44 times during his playing career and was involved in multiple U.S.-Mexico games. He said he will not be rooting for Mexico, as Donovan suggested.
“Personally, and this is all personal, I would say that the rivalry that we had playing would make it hard for me to root for Mexico,” he explained. “And it doesn’t mean I don’t want CONCACAF teams to do well, but that was our main rival in this region and I think it will continue to be our main rival in this region. For that reason, I personally am neutral when it comes to that.”
While the reactions to Donovan’s tweet have mostly been negative, not all of them have been. And without the history of the rivalry, and to those that experienced it, the tweet seems rather harmless and a show of support for another country from CONCACAF on the world’s biggest stage.
Also, as Berhalter points out, it is well within Donovan’s rights as an American to support whomever he chooses.
“I think my opinion is, because we’re a free country, we can root for whoever we want to root for,” he said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to it’s a personal choice. I would leave it at that in that we’re a mix of a lot of different nations and I’m sure there’s support for every nation that’s in the World Cup right now based on the population of the United States.”