After a long week of negotiations, it appeared that on Friday afternoon, the FMF and CONMEBOL had finally agreed on what to do about the two Mexican participants in the Copa Libertadores. Their round of 16 opponents, Sao Paolo and Nacional de Montevideo, refused to travel to Mexico on account of the flu bug that scared the world sh*tless a week ago.
Colombia agreed to stage the Mexican “home” game, but forgot to clear it with the local authorities. Chile refused. The South American teams cited visa issues so they nixed the idea of playing in the US. The games had already been postponed one week, and the tournament had to go on.
Yesterday afternoon, the FMF and CONMEBOL had come to an agreement in which the two Mexican teams would forfeit their participation in the tournament, their opponents would get a free pass to the next round. It would be decided within 30 days just how Chivas and San Luis would be compensated, financially and otherwise (possible automatic qualification for the 2010 edition). The FMF had come to this agreement with Secretary General Eduardo de Luca as well as Executive Vice-Presidents Eugenio Figueredo and Julio Grondona.
Then it got weird.
A few hours later, the FMF received another communique from CONMEBOL’s Asuncion offices announcing that the two Mexican teams will to travel to SA for a one-off at their opponents stadium. If the game is tied after 90 minutes, it would then be decided by penalties. This one was signed by President Nicolas Leoz.
The FMF claims this came out of nowhere. Citing the lack of Fair Play, among other things, the FMF then responded to CONMEBOL that Mexican teams will no longer participate in any of the CONMEBOL tournaments unless a much more favorable agreement than the original one is made.
Mexico has been a guest at these tournaments. They have made it to the finals once in the Libertadores, twice in the Copa America, and thrice in the Sudamericana. They have represented very well. The level of competition has helped Mexico improve tremendously over the years, both at the club and national level. But there have been more than a few instances were the guests were made to feel very unwelcome: Spotty decisions by the refs, less than favorable groupings,
Last week, the CONMEBOL banned Hector Reynoso for the rest of the tournament for coughing on an Everton player. It was disgusting, and he should be sanctioned. But where was the outrage when the Boca Juniors coach spit on Adolfo Bautista at the Bonbonera when Chivas had a 4-0 lead on aggregate?
Whether CONMEBOL likes it our not, allowing Mexican teams to join their parties has done wonders for them economically. Mexico has a lot of eyeballs. Not to mention the audience that watches here in the US.
I like the fact that CONCACAF teams have played in CONMEBOL tourneys. There is potential for bigger and better tournaments. The Sudamericana can expand to become the Panamericana. And it would be great if every four years, right after the Euro ends, (or before it begins) we can stage the Copa de las Americas. The Copa America and the gold cup can still be staged, as can the concachampions and Libertadores.
There are many solutions to this problem. I do applaud the FMF for standing up for their teams, but I prefer that they would have found a way to settle this on the field. Let us be clear about one thing. It was the South American teams that refused to travel to Mexico for their ties. Yet the FMF are the ones who offered to forfeit. Shouldn’t it be the other way ‘round? I wonder if CONMEBOL’s position would be more flexible if the SA teams involved were from Peru and Venezuela, not two of the sacred cows like Nacional and Sao Paolo.
This will get resolved because they both need each other. Mexico needs the elevated level of competition and CONMEBOL needs the economic boost from having such a large market like Mexico in their demographics.