Latinx Files: Getting ready to get my heart broken again by the World Cup

Three soccer players with different Mexico jerseys and a soccer ball
Cuahtemoc Blanco, Hirving Lozano and Javier Hernandez

(Martina Ibáñez-Baldor / Los Angeles Times; Mark Leech / Offside via Getty Images; Foto Olimpik / NurPhoto via Getty Images; Miguel Tovar / Getty Images)

Despite my better judgment, I can’t help but be excited about the World Cup.

I shouldn’t be. There are plenty of reasons not to.

There’s the fact that it’s being held in Qatar. The Middle Eastern country has faced accusations that it bribed its way into hosting the tournament during the 2010 bidding process, and that it exploited the migrant workers who built the infrastructure to carry out the sporting event. According to a 2021 Guardian report, at least 6,500 migrant workers have died in the decade since Qatar was declared the host.

Most recently, Qatar was reportedly offering to pay for fans to attend the World Cup in exchange for not disparaging the host country and ratting out those who do. Just last week, a Qatari World Cup ambassador said that homosexuality was a “damage of the mind” in an interview granted to a German broadcaster.

It also doesn’t help that the Mexican national team — the most popular soccer team in the United States — is in poor form heading into the tournament. El Tri is in such rough shape — the squad is unimaginative and uninspiring — that I am convinced coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino is purposely sabotaging his employer. I have no proof of this, but you can’t convince me that this isn’t an inside job. If what Tata is doing isn’t quiet quitting, I don’t know what is.

And yet despite all this, I feel a type of giddiness that comes only once every four years. Regardless of the evidence in front of me, I can’t help but secretly believe that maybe this is Mexico’s year.

I realize how stupid that sounds. I watched Wednesday’s friendly against Sweden.

But I also know that there are few things on this earth that make me feel more Mexican than watching El Tri at the World Cup — maybe watching YouTube videos of Juan Gabriel perform at Palacio de Bellas Artes? It’s close.

And when I watch, it’s always with optimism in my heart. Fútbol is magical like that. It has the power to turn the biggest cynics into believers. At any given moment, the unexpected can happen. David can beat Goliath.

It’s more than just a game. It’s also a bonding agent.

“I grew up in a family where gender roles are firmly prescribed. Soccer was this place where the immutable laws of my world disappeared,” said Jasmine Garsd, an Argentine American journalist who works for NPR and hosts “The Last Cup,” a bilingual podcast series that focuses on superstar Lionel Messi’s last shot at becoming world champion. It’s a sports podcast, yes, but it’s also about immigration, class, race, identity and belonging.

Garsd says she felt as though the “boundaries of gender became very porous” when watching games with her father. She recalls that shortly after her mom died, she took him to a club match in San Diego.


“I knew instinctively that this man needed to go to a soccer game, like right away, where he could scream and yell and cry because my dad isn’t the kind of guy who would do that otherwise,” she said.

“We went to the soccer stadium and all these emotions he couldn’t express about my mom dying came out during that game.”

That’s another thing that soccer is: cathartic. It’s a chance to let it all out, free of judgment.

I know that in a couple of weeks I am going to feel differently. Reality will probably bring me down. But until then, se vale soñar e imaginarse cosas chingonas.

¡Y que viva México!

You can find the Times World Cup coverage here. You can also find “The Last Cup,” in English and in Spanish, on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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Podcasts we’ve listened to that we think you should too

— El compa Jack Herrera from Texas Monthly explores the true legacy of the Texas Rangers in “White Hats.” Though lauded as heroes, the law enforcement agency has a bloody and shameful history of terrorizing and exacting violence on Mexicans and Mexican Americans across the state for having the audacity of existing. You can find it here.

— In case you missed it, our pals over at LAist released “Imperfect Paradise: The Forgotten Revolutionary” earlier this year. Hosted by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, the podcast examines the mysterious death of Oscar Gómez, a Chicano activist who was thought to be his generation’s Cesar Chavez.

— From the My Cultura Podcast Network comes “More Than a Movie: American Me.” The Chicano classic film celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. This podcast, hosted by Alex Fumero, is a deep dive into the making of the Edward James Olmos-directed movie that reportedly faced opposition from the Mexican Mafia.

— If you want to know more about the migrant workers who made the 2022 World Cup possible, the New York Times has this longform story that is very much worth your time.

—Los Angeles En Español reporter Soudi Jiménez headed to Pico Rivera to speak with César and Ana Roldán. Their son, Cristian Roldán, plays for the Seattle Sounders and will be representing the United States in the World Cup. This report is in Spanish.

— On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva conceded after failing to be re-elected. In his latest column, Gustavo Arellano eulogizes Villanueva’s career.

— The homie David Betancourt, who writes about comic book culture for The Washington Post, has this very insightful story about Tenoch Huerta playing Namor in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and why it’s so important.


— And speaking of Tenoch Huerta, big ups to the King of Marvel seas for using his platform to challenge colorism in Latin America. I don’t know what I love more, Huerta claiming that media in Mexico makes the country look like a Scandinavian country, or him telling people with darker skin to love themselves.