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Brent Latham: With racism and violence marring the weekend, Mexican soccer looks to help solve the problems

Brent Latham: With racism and violence marring the weekend, Mexican soccer looks to help solve the problems

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Two separate incidents put a damper on the weekend of Mexican soccer, and the response from the Liga MX is worth monitoring closely.

The eleventh and twelfth rounds of the Liga MX were among the most controversial in recent memory (not much challenge perhaps, since your memory only needs to go back as far as August to recall the entire history of Liga MX, but I digress).

A series of unseemly events made for a tough round of questioning for league president Decio de Maria on Monday, as the executive was forced to answer inquiries about racism in the stands and violence promotion on the pitch.

The case of racism had been flying a bit under the radar before it blew up on Monday when de Maria went on record seeming to minimize the occurrence.

The event appears to have amounted to simple, sheer stupidity from a few members of one of UNAM’s fan groups who had travelled to Leon and proceeded to act like the idiots they must be, by spending much of the match making monkey sounds when either of Leon’s Colombians of African descent touched the ball.

According to reports, a number of Pumas’ barra were escorted from the stadium, but no further punishment followed. The group was, however, confronted by Pumas’ upper management in what the club called an attempt to educate them.

“A lot’s been said about Leon-Pumas, but little has been investigated,” de Maria argued somewhat unconvincingly Monday, once again making the matter newsworthy. “It’s a matter of education. Sanctioning is not possible in this case.”

Hold on to that theme for a moment, as we move north to Tijuana on Sunday afternoon. There, as Club Tijuana took the lead on its way to the table top against Toluca, Ecuadorian Fidel Martinez opted for an ill-advised celebration when he seemed to fake the gunning down of teammate Duvier Riascos, who fell to the ground as if in the grip of a very violent death.

The scene was ridiculous, especially given the repercussions of a similar celebration acted out by Marco Fabian last year. But Martinez is new to the Mexican league, and wasn’t around for that, so at least cut him some slack there.

Also, the acting was pretty lame.

The referee did give Martinez a small break, at least. After originally showing what would have been a merited straight red card, he backed off and issued only a warning. De Maria was a bit sterner, calling the Tijuana directors on the phone to straighten things out.

It’s an indication of the state of affairs in Mexico, and the influence of the Mexican game on society, that these incidents coincided and are being given similar treatment.

Certainly they’re not quite the same. To simplify, one is a manifestation of how some factions of society still insist on treating others; the other is a repercussion of that sort of behavior.

It’s unfortunate that de Maria could be interpreted to be minimizing the racism incident, but luckily, most everyone does seems to get it. The actions of Pumas management after the incident were well thought out and timely. Hopefully they’ll go on to punish rather than further reward the fan group.

The fans should be indentified and sanctioned if possible, but the message is that the fans, ownership, and everyone else involved agrees that racism is not okay with the vast majority.

Having been to stadiums around Mexico, and also to stadiums in dozens of countries elsewhere, I’m of the firm opinion that because of such a generally tolerant attitude, racism is not nearly the problem in Mexican football that it is elsewhere. This seems like an isolated incident perpetrated by a few morons.

Violence, however, is a huge problem in Mexico. So a celebration like that of the Tijuana players that in any way glorifies a state of affairs that has the country under siege by default becomes the realm of the league. Martinez won’t receive further punishment, but he should.

At any rate, de Maria is right about one thing: Education is the key.

There are idiots everywhere. The first step to changing their attitudes is educating them to the fact that their behavior is not acceptable in society. Remarkably, it seems soccer is Mexico is learning to take its place in that structure, as part of the solution.

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