Donald Trump had better things to do on Friday night. Hatching plans to ‘make America great again’ is more important than taking in the World Cup qualifier between the US and Mexico. Yet, if the President-elect had taken a glance at the goings on in Ohio, some timely food for thought would’ve headed his way.
The defending for Rafa Marquez’s late winner which sent the American’s tumbling to a first home qualifying defeat for 15 years wouldn’t have bothered the billionaire. Maybe Jurgen Klinsmann should have built a Trump-style wall to keep the pesky ‘bad hombres’ out of the box?
Or, perhaps, witnessing a lack of enmity from the home fans towards their deadliest soccer rivals while cheering on a team packed full of men whose backgrounds are anathema to Trump would make his views on immigration, which have caused such anger and fear here, slowly dissipate.
Klinsmann’s squad have deep roots from all over the world with many of proud Latino heritage – Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco, for example, play in Mexico and were raised in Mexican-American families. And in Columbus, a city in pure Trump heartland and whose soccer fans are vociferous, emotional, almost European-like in their dedication, there was a convivial atmosphere.
The ordinarily boisterous American Outlaws even took out a piece out of their huge ‘Tifo’ style flag which took a sly dig at El Tri to avoid any extra antagonisation of Mexican fans who’ve suffered enough during the past week.
That’s reassuring to see while large swathes of the nation – and the world – continue to recoil in shock and anger at Trump’s amazing ascension to the White House.
Naturally, it’s too early to assess how this most controversial of elections will affect the US sporting landscape – he won’t start in Washington DC until January 21 – though worries are already bubbling away.
If relations begin to suffer across the globe, what hope will there be of striking deals to bring the Olympics and World Cup to the United States? Will NFL hopes of firmly establishing a foreign franchise hit the buffers as a result of a bitter trade war?
Of course, it would be rich of the IOC and FIFA, two bastions of corruption, to cast aspersions over Trump’s presidency. Yet pressure from rival hosting nations could become problematic.
The mayor of a possible host city, Los Angeles , supported the Democrats and Hillary Clinton and has already stated publicly that Trump is bad news. In June, US Soccer chief Sunil Gulati insisted that the viability of bringing the World Cup here in 2026 would depend greatly on who’s sat in the Oval Office.
“The world’s perception of the United States is affected by who is in the White House,” he said. “Having somebody in the White House that gives the country an outward-looking view and a personality that is more easier accepted around the world is positive for the US and then more specifically for hosting events here and for our general image from a sports perspective.”
Fast-forward to last weekend, however, and fancy that – his tune has changed considerably.
#Spurs Popovich on Trump: "He’s angry at the media because they reported what he said and how he acted. That’s ironic and makes no sense."— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) November 12, 2016
“What I said was a joint bid would be more difficult if (Hillary Clinton) weren’t elected. But we’re not talking about a joint bid. We’re not talking about any bid right now. I don’t think it will affect our final decision,” he said.
While Gulati’s words appeared as minced as ever, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich didn’t hold back. Golden State Warriors chief Steve Kerr was also one of many high profile sporting figures who were highly critical of Trump though Pop led the way, with the NBA’s long history of diversity, activism and inclusion.
“I’m just sick to my stomach,” Popovich. “Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenure and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.”
The rant though was spot on. It won’t be the last either.
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