Some call it complacency, others the championship hangover. In Mexico it’s known as campeonitis. Whatever it is, it stinks. And it is being measured in alarming levels at Ciudad Universitaria, home to Pumas UNAM. The only remnant that you can see on the pitch of the team that won the previous tournament is the itty-bitty little star they added to their jersey. Everything else has been a complete disaster. The usually solid defense has made careless and costly mistakes. The forwards seem to think the goal is floating 20 yards above the field, and Tuca Ferretti is hopelessly trying to stop the bleeding. Any other team, and this guy would have been fired long ago (last week). There have been plenty of excuses, as always. A popular one was that they had key players on national team duty. One of last Wednesday’s heroes, Efrain Juarez, made a stirring and emotional return to CU by promptly getting a red card. Welcome Back.
Pre-seasons aren’t usually a telling barometer of what is to come. But Pumas was awful in the build up, conceding an obscene amount of goals. It hasn’t changed much 4 games into the league, and they have made up for it by not scoring. They currently sit in dead last place with a -8 goal differential. They finally put a ball into the opposing team’s net last week for their first goal in over 300 minutes of play. It was not enough.
Pumas will eventually right the ship. I hope And the reality of the Mexican Primera’s parity is that they can get hot enough to go from worst to first in about a month. The current table topper, Morelia on 10 points, can just as easily slide down the shoot over the next few weeks. Tomas Boy’s crew has been playing very well lately, which is very surprising when we take into account how young the team is. And coincidentally, Morelia was my pick to win it all. But only because I literally picked them at random.
Like last year, Tuca will be using the kids for the Concachampions. They responded with a less than convincing 1-0 win over an overly defensive Comunicaciones squad from Guatemala. I was hoping that some of these youngsters would make the most of their chance and eventually press the starters for some PT. Didn’t really happen. But considering how bad the first teamers are doing, he might as well use the kids in the local league as well.
Homer announcers don't bother me at all. Hey, I am even part of a very partisan crew that calls Longhorn football games in español. We may be biased toward the ‘horns, we may not call the other teams’ touchdowns with the same enthusiasm, and we may question decisions made by the referee, but we would never ever claim that the refs are thieves, in Texas’ pocket, or the Big 12 wants Texas out of the championship game, which is why that holding call nullified that last touchdown. And we certainly wouldn't threaten bodily harm.
Enter Honduran announcer Salvador Nasralla. He was not happy at all with FIFA's decision to have a Mexican ref, Marco Antonio Rodriguez, as the official for last week’s Ticos-Catrachos tilt. It was the third Honduras game in row with a Mexican ref. He believed that ref would influence the result in Mexico’s favor because Costa Rica was Mexico’s next opponent.
If there is a constant in footie, it’s that refs make mistakes. But seemingly every decision that went against Honduras elicited the "Chiquidracula ladrón” cry. And went much further.
“They are going to steal our world cup place away from us.
We didn’t get that call because we didn’t pay him enough.
“The ref won’t get paid if Honduras wins.
“If Honduras doesn’t win, I’ll let you all know where he is staying tonight.”
I guess Mr. Nasralla convienently forgot Carlos Costly’s clear handball in his first goal vs. Mexico. I have always found that when complains about the ref, the ref for the next one may not be as attentive. And that happens when a ref’s life isn’t threatened.
Passions run deep in Honduras. Let’s not forget that they went to war with El Salvador after a qualifier prior to the 1970 World Cup. They have a great team right now, and if they qualify for South Africa, they will be a huge headache for their groupmates. But if they do have a weakness, it is their reputation for having very fragile psyches, and this guy didn’t do anything to dispel that.