Canales Daily: Mexico's Marquez And Machismo Misery

Sure, pride in one's team, country and one's own abilities is great, but the maturity to handle setbacks must exist for any squad to find ultimate success.
By Andrea Canales

Machismo is defined as exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences. In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculine, stressing attributes such as physical courage, virility, domination and aggressiveness.

In some ways, machismo seems like an ideal ingredient for success in sport, especially one as demanding as soccer, with no timeouts or in-and-out substitutions, but that overlooks the "minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences" part.

It's likely that machismo played a role in the actions of Mexico's Rafael Marquez in the recent game versus the United States. After all, it's not as if the captain offered a better explanation on his own.

"My desire always is to win and perhaps when we don't, I don't know what to do and that is what causes me to do this," said Marquez in his apology statement.

The problem is that if Marquez really wants to be victorious, he has made it more difficult for his beloved El Tri to achieve that, as the red card he earned with his back-kick cleating of U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard now leaves him out of Mexico's next qualifying game.

For that matter, the loss of temper that Marquez displayed was not an isolated incident for the Mexican squad. Who knows what the team that confronted the U.S. in Columbus might have been capable of if veteran midfielder Gerardo Torrado or talented young forward Carlos Vela had been able to play. Sadly for Mexico, they were both sidelined due to foolish cards earned in a previous loss versus Honduras.

It's not as if the U.S. team is unaware of the cost of an untimely card - red ones played an important role, both for and against the squad in their disappointing 2006 World Cup participation. The show of emotion by Howard, heaving the ball away after the incident with Marquez, did get him a yellow that, due to accumulation, will cause him to miss the next match versus El Salvador.

Yet Howard didn't do anything that would take him out of the match being played, whereas Marquez doomed his team while the game and a vital point was still within reach.

The problem on a deeper level is that fans are often inclined to forgive anything done with the justification of strong feeling behind it. Because they care so much about the outcome, it is comforting in a sense to know that players feel the same way. It creates something of a bond. Yet uncontrolled emotion doesn't really show loyalty at all. It is more of a traitor to what fans actually want, which is the success of their team.

The mentality of machismo doesn't really allow for a gracious loss - and as previously defined, doesn't lend itself to thinking ahead in any way.

In a way, what Marquez did in Ohio was worse than his infamous headbutt of Cobi Jones at the 2002 World Cup. There are a pair of key reasons for this - first of all, with two minutes left in the game, it was unlikely that Mexico was going to come back from two goals down, though stranger things have happened in soccer. In the latest match, Mexico had not only more time in the match when Marquez acted out, but also was only down by a single goal. In a context where Mexico was creating chances for the equalizer, it was a far more fatal blow to lose a player than it was in 2002, no matter how bad that headbutt looked.

The second factor that made this recent red card more detrimental is the fact that the World Cup, after the group stage, is a knockout tournament. The suspension after the red card wasn't much of a factor. Yet the Hexagonal round of qualifying features the toughest competition that CONCACAF has to offer. Yes, Mexico is likely to qualify, but missing their captain won't help that happen.

After all, Costa Rica has beaten Mexico in Azteca before. The Ticos will be riding high on confidence after their win over Honduras in the first round of hexagonal games and will not hesitate to go after Mexico. At some point, the Costa Rican players might even employ as part of their strategy attempts to goad the Mexico players into actions that could draw more cards.

Marquez has paid lip service to having developed an increased maturity since 2002, and perhaps his apology after the game was evidence of that. To help Mexico reach the World Cup, however, his maturity needs to show on the field, not his machismo.

Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of USA