The Religion of Soccer in Mexico

Soccer is egocentric. Soccer is unpredictable. Soccer is business. Soccer is religion. Soccer is politics. Soccer is corruption. Soccer is fanaticism. Soccer is, quite simply, like life.

The Mayans left us a legacy of passion with their incredible ball game which gave us with a pair of goals, a green rectangle and a rolling ball that became the national conversation of our nation. For our ancestors it was a sacred game played under the eyes of the gods, but we have been reduced to mere fans. And it’s fanaticism that causes the blindness and apathy that prevent moving the gears of this engine called Mexico.

The Mayan polytheistic religion showed respect for the power of the natural events that shook their tribes. Our religion became, at best, monotheistic or atheist. We are so self-centered that we created fantasies that now make up our belief system.

It’s those fantasies that make us dream of conquering the playing field of international soccer for years to come while we ignore teaching our children to go the extra mile and strive to succeed, which would not only benefit us as people, but as a country.

We’ve become spectators, watching soccer on television instead of taking our kids to the park to play and encouraging them to be athletic and healthy. We are a country with one of the highest numbers of soccer fans in the world yet we are also the country with the highest rate of obesity.

Soccer stadiums are the new cathedrals that are crammed full on Sundays. Stephen Tomkins said it best in his book "A Brief History of Christianity": "We abandoned the churches for the soccer fields. Players are gods and the stands are the pews. Soccer is the new religion." A religion as misunderstood as any other but that basically unites us despite the serious problems being experienced by Mexico.

However, all is not lost. Tijuana and Torreon are two of the cities hardest hit by the violence in our country and they reflect the clearest example of what soccer can achieve in a society. Every two weeks, the faithful congregate to encourage their warriors on the field. The unity between these thousands of fans is reflected when, finally, there is a goal. That long awaited ecstasy, that explosion of indescribable joy and passion that only those who have been privileged to love soccer understand.

But soccer is sadness. Not just a loss during a series final or elimination for a foolish mistake made by players from lack of experience or concentration. I mean the corruption surrounding soccer: The stadium shootings, fights in the stands, players drugging, cheating, gambling, lack of discipline and mismanagement by clubs, players and fans. Our social standing reflected on the field.

Soccer is a team sport where it can’t just be about individual players but it has to function as a team. Mexican society needs to work the same way. As long as we believe that one leader can bring us to victory, we will lose. If we don’t all cover our positions and get involved in the political social, cultural, democratic and behavioral issues in our country, will continue to lose like we’ve always done but we think we played a great match.

There’s a quote from the 2008 film "Rudo y Cursi": "In the game, as in life, individual effort is nothing if it’s not part of a collective effort, collaboration can’t be understood without the basic principle of generosity. Working towards the same cause unites us and makes us brothers."

I have hope that Mexico is waking up from a very long slumber that has kept us from being in the limelight in any area on ​​the world stage. Not only did we win the gold medal in men's soccer Olympic Games London 2012 but recently we were world champions in robots soccer at a programmer’s tournament in which Mexicans faced the best in the world and demonstrated that Mexico has the potential to excel both intellectually and athletically.

Written by Jorge Chávez for Caras de México. Click here to read more articles examining Mexican identity.