The rise of El Tri-Levisa and the war for Mexico’s football federation

This story originally appeared on Voxxi.

As the Mexican national team took out its World Cup qualifying frustrations on low-ranked New Zealand last week, Sports Illustrated journalist Grant Wahl took to Twitter to describe the months-long drama as “the best telenovela ever.” He may be more correct than he realizes if sports journalist Miguel Pazcabrales is right.

Pazcabrales has outlined in his column Los Demonios Del Deporte what he believes is the return of Televisa’s hand in controlling the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol Asociacion (FMF).

Much like the return of the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI) to power, the conglomerate is the ousted hand of power that has returned to rock the cradle.

“I no longer believe that it’s a coincidence,” exclaims Pazcabrales, “that every time the World Cup draws near, Mexico is always at risk of not qualifying.”

He cites as evidence El Tri’s rescue at the hands of Javier Aguirre from the failures of Sven Gorak-Eriksson and Enrique Meza and the intervention of Manuel Lapuente in the run-up to the World Cup ‘98.

The current managerial crisis that has seen four managers take over El Tri in a little over a month is an exaggerated, almost cartoon-like version of Televisa’s past attempts at creating drama on a national scale with football as its main protagonist.

Through shrewd, opportunistic maneuvers, the largest multimedia company in Mexico (and second largest in Latin America) has worked behind the scenes to “rescue” the federation and the national team on various occasions, purposefully creating a real-life soap opera surrounding the country’s pastime in order to advance their profits by controlling broadcasting rights and bombarding Tri fans with merchandise, advertisements, and more.

The current version of this manufactured crisis begins in 2011 with the appointment of Jose Manuel de la Torre.

Two successful years as coach came to an end in 2013 after a dismal record in the CONCACAF qualifiers and the Confederations Cup.

Luis Fernando Tena took over for one game and Victor Manuel Vucetich lasted two games before being forced out by the FMF (the circumstances of which are incredibly suspicious) in favor of current coach Miguel Herrera.

Herrera, his coaching staff, and his squad of Club America players were loaned to the FMF by its owners to secure Mexico’s place in the World Cup. Unfortunately, this telenovela has more groan-inducing twists than every film by M. Night Shyamalan combined.

Plot twist #1: Televisa owns Club America.

Plot twist #2: FMF president Justino Compean is a former employee of Televisa with stints as head of Club Necaxa and, the cradle of Mexico’s soccer universe, the Estadio Azteca. He was promoted to the biggest seat in the FMF thanks to the collusion of Televisa and its competitor TV Azteca in a bid to protect their mutual interests in football revenue.

Plot twist #3: Billionaire Carlos Slim, owner of TelMex and America Movil, has made numerous maneuvers into Televisa’s territory. He recently purchased Estudiantes Tecos as well as shares in C.F. Pachuca and Club Leon. This gives him extra clout in the FMF (league owners have a vote/say in the FMF’s operations) and the broadcast rights for their games, drawing the ire of Televisa and TV Azteca who were the league’s broadcasting duopoly for many years.

Plot twist #4: Jorge Vergara is the owner of Chivas de Guadalajara, Club America’s fiercest rival. It was long-rumored that Slim was interested in purchasing Chivas plus a few of his other properties. Vergara’s revolving door record with his club’s coaches mirrors the current situation with the FMF.

Plot twist #5: De La Torre coached Chivas (2005 – 2007) before his stint with El Tri.

Plot twist #6: Vergara was Herrera’s most vocal supporter as Vucetich’s replacement.

Mexico’s greatest footballer Hugo Sanchez said it best in a recent column for El Universal where he spoke out against the owners and higher-ups of the FMF for treating his beloved sport as nothing more than a toy for them to make money off of.

“The saddest part of this story…is that people are oblivious,” he said, “and they continue being manipulated and conditioned into believing that the players and the coaches are to blame for this crisis we have befallen. They are absolutely mistaken.”

Unfortunately for Sanchez and Tri fans everywhere, only Televisa knows how this telenovela will end.

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