I’m a bit of a football fan, to put it mildly, so as well as the continued support I give to England during internationals and my English club team, Liverpool, I picked a footy team here in Mexico to cheer along. Namely Cruz Azul. I’ve been to about a dozen games over the last few years, but there is one that I will remember – Cruz Azul playing at home to Club Americas, the biggest and richest club in Mexican football, whose home stadium is the mighty Azteca.
My team lost, so it shouldn’t have been a very memorable game. And it wouldn’t have been , bar the introduction of Cuauhtemoc Blanco as a substitute mid way through the second half. Possibly Mexico’s greatest ever footballer, although I suspect most will insist he is second to Hugo Sanchez. The game was a typical Mexican league game. Plenty of passion on the pitch, but a distinct lack of the sort of quality you’d see in the English Premier League. Or in Spain, Italy or Germany for that matter.
Until Blanco stepped on the pitch, anyway. He was already getting on in years and didn’t have an awful lot of pace, but his touch, vision and technique were far and away the best on the field. It was genuinely a pleasure to watch him play.
Since then he’s moved on to play for Chicago Fire in the US. He’s the second biggest earner in the US league behind David Beckham, but he is arguably as important to the league as the Englishman. Chicago, and of course the US in general, has a large Mexican population who fill stadiums to see Blanco play.
I had hoped to see him in action again in the green of Mexico at the Azteca, but sadly I have missed my chance. He came on against Canada in the World Cup qualifier in the Azteca on Wednesday, which was his last game for his country. After 13 years, 34 goals and 2 World Cups he’s said goodbye for the last time.