The Mexican team will take on Real Madrid in this year's FIFA Club World Cup. The team proclaims greatness back home but how will they measure up against the Spanish giants?
With 100 years of history, 12 domestic titles and seven CONCACAF Champions League trophies under its belt, Club América is considered one of the biggest football clubs hailing from the American continent. But in comparison to Real Madrid, its upcoming opponent in the FIFA Club World Cup semifinal, the Mexican team is practically unknown.
How is it that a successful and traditional team from a country with rich football history such as Mexico does not enjoy larger recognition on the world stage?
Perhaps the team’s own style is to blame. Club América claims to be the country’s most hated team and proudly presents PR campaigns based on such premise. The Mexico City team insists that the animosity from football fans towards it is based on envy to the club’s success.
The mythical Azteca Stadium is home to Club América. The stadium hosted the 1970 and 1986 World Cup Finals.
While nearly all Mexican football fans agree that Club América is the most hated team in Mexico, there are various reasons behind such dislike and none refer to the team’s records. Club América is often associated with privilege and arrogance, a combination that does not sit well with the country’s psyche.
“Club América is great and that’s why they hate us, let them hate us more tomorrow,” said billionaire Emilio Azcarraga Jean, the team’s owner after the squad obtained the league title in 2013.
Azcarraga also owns Grupo Televisa, the largest mass media company in Latin America and the largest Spanish-speaking broadcaster in the world meaning that Club América has deep pockets when it comes to spending money during the transfer window. There’s little worry when an expensive player turns out to be a flop as the club does not need to sell other stars to balance the books.
On top of being one of the richest clubs in the league which can easily buy out their competition, their financial backbone, Televisa, has been accused of political bias and partial news coverage which in turn supports corruption and crime, thus misinforming the public. Televisa heavily influenced Mexico’s 2012 presidential election and its power was most recently seen in 2014 during the disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College. Televisa’s complicity with the unpopular Mexican government is for some fans reason enough to hate the team.
With over 2.7 million followers on Twitter, Mexico’s most popular football team is Chivas Guadalajara, rivals to Club América. Although Chivas was bought in 2002 by Jorge Vergara, a billionaire entrepreneur, it has remained true to its traditions. Chivas mainly develops its own players in its youth academy and only fields players who have Mexican citizenship during every game.
Four out of the seven Mexicans to have ever played in the Bundesliga played for Chivas before making the jump to Europe including Bayer Leverkusen’s star forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Eintracht Frankfurt's Marco Fabian. Unlike Chivas, Club América heavily relies on foreign players. The team usually brings in stars to the country’s league from South America, namely Brazil and Argentina.
“I don’t think they represent Mexico at the Club World Cup, they represent themselves,” said Jorge Vergara in an interview when asked about Club América.
During the team’s first game in the FIFA Club World Cup’s quarterfinal against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Club América fielded a starting eleven that featured only three Mexican players. For many football fans back in Mexico, it is difficult to get behind a team that hardly represents their country.
Like two peas in a pod
Of course Club América is far from Real Madrid’s stature but both clubs share various similarities. Both sides are the most successful teams in their respective leagues as well as in their continental competitions. Both teams have shared legendary players as part of their squad such as the Chilean forward Ivan Zamorano and the acrobatic Hugo Sanchez as well as coaches such as the emblematic Dutchman Leo Beenhakker.
The two teams have faced each other a total of three times in all of their history with a perfect record for Los Blancos but this will be the first time that they go head to head in an official match. Their last encounter was a friendly but fierce match back in 2010 in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winning goal with a free kick in the 81st minute to put the a 3-2 final score line.
Now the time has come for Club América to prove their self-proclaimed greatness against one of the world’s top squads and also prove all of their retractors wrong. Although Real Madrid is by far the favorite, Club América has very little to lose and has much to win. Club América could become the first CONCACAF team to reach the final of the Club World Cup and perhaps even take the title back home bringing joy to its supporters and more hatred from the rest.