Mexico cuts ties with CONMEBOL after Libertadores mess

SanLuis (Reuters)

By NESTOR F. SEBASTIAN

A little over a decade ago, CONMEBOL decided to start including Mexican teams in its club tournaments after noticing the caliber of the Mexican soccer league, its national team and the potential revenue it could bring in. The move paved the way for Libertadores to add further competitiveness.

While no Mexican team has won the most prestigious competition on this side of the hemisphere yet, they certainly came close on one occasion and have consistently had many of its teams advance past the group stages. Cruz Azul lost on penalties to Boca Juniors in the 2001 campaign while in 2006, Pachuca took home the Copa Sudamericana, the UEFA equivalent of South America. The Mexicans' displays in both tournaments showed the under-appreciative South American teams and fans that Mexico is a force to be dealt with and that it would not lay down so easily to the continent's heavyweights.

On Friday, after Brazil's Sao Paulo and Uruguay's Nacional announced their refusals to travel to Mexico last week for the Libertadores first-leg matches in the Round of 17 phase due to the swine flu scare, the Mexican soccer federation decided that Chivas and San Luis, the Mexican representatives in this year's tournament, would withdraw from play and also said it would sever all ties with CONMEBOL. The federation, in a press conference, blamed the negativity and unprofessional attitude displayed by the Brazilian and Uruguayan camps.

Following this announcement, hordes of reporters, bloggers and soccer figures in Mexico came out of the woodwork to support and applaud the federation's decision for dignity's sake and also blamed South America's long-lasting bias against Mexican teams.

For years, Mexican soccer officials and teams have complained about shoddy officiating, deplorable treatment against their squads and fans as well as harsh and unnecessary suspensions against their players for alleged misconduct and related behavior. They've also insinuated that some results against Mexican teams were "fixed" in order to pair up dream matchups deep into tournaments.

At the same time, Mexican's counterparts in South America—the so-called minnow countries—such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay and Peru have faced those same hurdles for years against the giants. Sure, they don't boast the same amount of cash that Mexican companies do in providing sponsorships, revenue, etc. But those countries' fans have been subjected to discriminatory practices and there have also been instances where their teams played well enough in several matches only to have a questionable call against them retreat their chances for advancement.

And even last year, the Bolivian national team and its clubs faced the prospect of having several of its home bases in some high-altitude cities banned from competition after a Brazilian team complained to CONMEBOL about the effects it could have on players. CONMEBOL went to FIFA for input who initially placed a temporary ban before lifting that ban shortly after.

Strangely, though, in Friday's press conference, the Mexican federation thanked CONMEBOL for delaying the matches and its attempts to seek alternatives. But federation officials were miffed specifically at the Brazilians and Uruguayans as well as the Colombian and Chilean governments for rejecting CONMEBOL's request to host the Mexican matches. However, a second-division side in Ecuador did offer its stadium to the Mexicans but it was unclear if the Mexicans rejected that notion or if it was even considered at all.

The Mexican contingent never made it a secret that it was delighted with facing the top teams in South America year in and year out. Not only have these matches helped Mexican competition but South America has also enjoyed the competitiveness that Mexican teams have brought. It's a shame that CONMEBOL and Mexico couldn't amicably reach some sort of agreement because, in the end, both South America and Mexico lose on this one.

What do you think of this latest development? Did Mexico overreact too quickly to pull its teams? Did Sao Paulo and Nacional overreact to a health concern that looks to be contained? Is South America really afraid of Mexico? Are you hoping CONMEBOL extends invites to MLS now?

Share your thoughts below.

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51 Responses to Mexico cuts ties with CONMEBOL after Libertadores mess

  1. BellusLudas says:

    Just wondering out loud how this will effect SuperLiga…..

  2. adam in berkeley says:

    The answer is not at all. The Super Liga is not the tournament that decides Copa Lib places for Mexico. You’re thinking of the interliga which takes place between only mexican squads. I would imagin that that tournament will either shift to being a cash prize tournament or possibly be scrapped.

  3. einar says:

    this may open doors to MLS. but i dont think i would want the teams faceing worse scenarios than the mexican teams because what is worst than a mexican team playing soccer in that tournament for south americans? gringos playing soccer in their tournament.

  4. This is big. Without the copa libertadores and sud americana, mexico is forced to put more effort in the concacaf championd cup. Another thing is since comembol will loose a ton of cash on this, there is areal possibility they can try to recoup it by looking her to the united states to fill up the spaces mexico has left.

  5. EDB says:

    I think it was a good decision for Mexico. I think with the Champions league in concacaf and the developing MLS i think they still have an outlet for good club competition. I would like to see the superliga be more a uefa type contest rather then just Mexican and MLS teams though.

  6. kevin says:

    that is really sad… I really enjoyed having Mexican teams in Copa Libertadores, this is a huge shame for everyone involved. Hopefully they can still go back and make up in time for next year’s competition or at least for the year after.

  7. TK says:

    SA couldn’t have cared less about Mex quality. They feared a Mex team winning it however, but this never was really a futball issure..

    This was about one thing primarily, and one thing only – MONEY.

    The other stuff was minimal.

    Mexico did the right thing. They have the clout. They have been filling the coffers of SA. SA will come back to them.

    Watch, I guarantee it. They need/want Mex money. It was/is huge.

    Money talks. The reat is PR BS.

    Money. money, money.

    That’s why Mex will be back and they will yield more pwoer down th eroad for this. Same way MLS pulled San Jose to show they weren’t bluffing and send a message. This is the same thing.

    Bus 101.

  8. Felix says:

    I don’t see this lasting. I would not be surprised for a year or two, once the anger subsides, the two sides coming together again to work out another agreement. The “marriage” works too well for both sides.

    Hopefully this means an MLS side gets into the competition – hopefully they will take it seriously.

  9. seth|NYC says:

    Dignity isn’t the first word I conjure when I think of Mexican soccer. But this was the right thing to do. CONMEBOL forced their hand when they proclaimed that San Luis and Chivas would forfeit the games if they weren’t played and simultaneously said that they couldn’t be played in Mexico. This was the last straw after parasitically sucking cash from Mexico and treating them like whores for years.

    The Libertadores and Sudamericana will be poorer after losing Mexican teams. I hope the CONCAChampions Cup will benefit.

    (The ironic bit: Wasn’t it Chivas who refused to play the MetroStars in the Merconorte after September 11th?)

  10. Turtle says:

    I agree: Good for Mexico taking a stand and they will be back. The money for both sides will ensure that.

    Until MLS teams have reserve teams again they need to stick to the competitions already available.

  11. Blondie says:

    If MLS did accept an invite, when would all of this take place ?

  12. Robert says:

    The USA should jump in…. MLS for Libertadores!

  13. Aguinaga says:

    Far as MLS teams in Liberatadores goes, and forgetting about the generally large talent gap between the better South American teams and the better MLS teams.. I mean, we can’t even beat Mexican and USL teams in Interliga. That aside, logistically it would be a nightmare. I’d love to see it, love to see Metro vs River or Toronto vs. Intenacional de Porto Alegre, it’d be great for our teams as learning experiences. But the distances the teams would have to travel, until faster transport is readily available, just seems to vast. I mean, how many hours is it between Chicago and say Santiago, Chile? Let alone between Vancouver or Seattle and Buenos Aires if there were a Whitecap or Sounders match vs Boca? Just too far to do routinely for now I think. Schedules would have to be too dramatically adjusted. In the future, who knows..

  14. Ryan says:

    MLS teams can’t even hang in the CONCACAF Champions League. What makes you think they will be competitive in CONMEBOL competitions?

  15. Bootsy says:

    Aguinaga: You mean CCL, not Interliga. MLS and USL sides do not play in Interliga.

  16. torres fan says:

    this sucks b/c it would have been great for Jose Torres to get Copa Sudamericana experience with Pachuca…

  17. Blake says:

    “we can’t even beat Mexican and USL teams in Interliga.”

    …wait, what?

  18. scott47a says:

    How about the U.S. and Mexico just pump cash and excitement into CONCACAF?

    Let’s stop worrying about other regional tournaments and do something to raise the level of our own. Hopefully, Mexico’s clubs and fans will do that no that Lib is off the table.

  19. Adam M. says:

    This was an awful lot of posturing from both sides for two games that could have been postponed, rescheduled, or revenued. The bottom line here is that Mexico needed the Copa Lib more than the Copa Lib needed the Mexicans, particularly now that the Club World Cup has become something worth taking seriously. Why should Mexico get two shots? Why should smaller SA teams suffer? And why should bigger SA teams be forced to compete with arguably better-than-average non-SA clubs? The bottom line here is that Mexico and MLS would be a truly tremendous core for a great NA championship if their play was nearly as good as Brazil/Argentina’s yearly best or the core European clubs. But Mexico was always the invited party and it apparently was no longer welcome.

  20. vic says:

    Robert,
    if MLS did get invites it would probably be next month when Copa Sudamaerican teams are selected. Remember that DCU has been an invitee twice for that tournement. The spending revenue of Mexicans & Hispanics in US is also large. If Conmebol decided to extend otherwise Mexican invitees to Sud and Lib to MLS, they might try teams with heavy following in large Hispanic communities- perhaps Houston, perhaps Chicago, perhaps Chivas. Perhaps with a Mexican star, Chivas US would even be watched on the other side of the border. Maybe not. De La Hoya has spoken of desire to sign a Mexican star for his team. An invite to Sud would be perfect timing in July’s transfer opening to do so. If MLS is invited to these tournys, if potentially could be big….if the MLS teams made some moves…and if it was covered on TV…such as Telemundo or Telefutura.

  21. LJ says:

    I think this is one of many opportunities presenting themselves to MLS and SUM that can not be really taken advantage of because the roster restrictions don’t allow MLS teams to compete with the rest of the Americas (North/Central/South).

    I’m not saying spend wildly, but MLS needs to figure out how to get their teams better suited for CCL, SL, etc. That is the next step.

  22. BlueWhiteLion says:

    one word: hissy fit.

    Anyone remember when DC beat the Libertadores champions or something a decade or so ago? They had a decent team then.

  23. Cam says:

    Totally sucks. That’s about all there is to say.

  24. LJ says:

    BlueWhieLion

    that DC United team was loaded
    GK: Tom Presthus
    DF: Eddie Pope, Carlos Llamosa, Jeff Agoos, Tony Sanneh
    MF: John Harkes, Richie Williams, Ben Olsen, Marco Etcheverry
    FW: Jaime Moreno, Roy Lassiter
    Coach: Bruce Arena

    You can’t have a team like this in the MLS currently

  25. Haig says:

    They beat Vasco da Gama, who were Libertadores champs, in the Interamerican Cup, with is taken so seriously that it was only played the once in seventeen years. Though DC did have a good team, no doubt.

    But like with so many of their trophies, they never had to play an away game to win hardware. Their one CONCACAF Champions Cup was entirely played at RFK– every single game. The Interamerican Cup was a two-legged affair, but the “away” leg was played not in Brazil, but in Miami, against a team that had played in Japan for the Intercontinental Cup two days earlier. (And of course, their two US Open Cups involved playing one single game, the semifinal in 1996, away from home).

    Good team, absolutely. But their reputation as an international power is a fraud, all hype and no substance.

  26. nico says:

    Too bad, but I don’t blame Mexico. They really have gotten treated poorly.
    It is bad for Concacaf, as Mexican team’s success was good for the region.

  27. Juan says:

    Mexican Soccer is retracting. For better or for worse only time will tell. It does not take a fool to see Mexican soccer is a great peril. Their quality in the national team is dwindling, club teams are filled with over-paid foreigners and their youth squad has played poorly as of late.

    The Cruz Azul vs Boca Juniors in 2001 was one for the ages.

  28. silent e says:

    I applaud Mexico’s decision, and think that MLS should stand with our CONCACAF rival and spurn any CONMEBOL tournament invites until Mexico and CONMEBOL work it out (and as others have said, the money involved means they most likely will).

    What would be interesting would be if they don’t work it out for the Copa Sudamerica. Perhaps an interesting development would be for SuperLiga to start inviting teams from the “neglected” South American countries. Think of it: expand it to a 16 team tournament–4 US, 4 Mexico, 2 each to Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. If necessary you can do the whole thing cup-style, with no group stage. That would certainly make SuperLiga more interesting.

    In fact, I’m liking this idea so much I think they should do it regardless of whether Mexico and CONMEBOL kiss and make up or not.

  29. Shmenge says:

    DC came close to beating U. Catolica a couple years back in Copa Sud.

    With the exception of the very top teams, most South American competition would be easier that what we face in the Mexican League.

    But we need to focus on beating Mexican teams in CCL before we can do anything else.

  30. Danny says:

    MLS needs to win the CONCACAF Champion’s League before it heads down south for Libertadores. MLS can send a team to Copa Sudamerica every now and again, but until we need to focus on our own competition.

    With Mexico out of Libertadores I expect more emphasis on CCL. Should be good competition for the US.

  31. Frank says:

    The one thing not mentioned here and the main part of this withdrawl that I will miss most is Mexico pulling out of all CONMEBOL competitions not just club ones, they also pulled out of Copa America. I believe that only Brazil and Argentina are better than Mexico in CONMEBOL as was shown in last Copa with them disposing of Paraguay, Ecuador, and Uruguay before losing to Argentina. Mexico will be missed by the fans of that competition.

  32. Willardo DuPont says:

    Good move for Mexcio. They will be out of the tournaments until CONMEBOL comes to their senses. Hopefully this will result in a better quality of competition in CONMEBOL.

  33. Willardo DuPont says:

    … Better quality in the sense that CONMEBOL makes changes and invites Mexico back. Hopefully MLS too (someday).

  34. Chase says:

    This should provides the impetus for Mexico and the spanish language media giants (Univision, etc.) to build Superliga and the CONCACAF CL into premier competitions (as Interliga was a boon for them that must be replaced). However, my gut tells me this just might be posturing that will see the Mexican clubs rejoin the competition next season…

  35. Nick says:

    Great News! Get MLS in there ASAP!!

  36. dantheblue says:

    Slow down everyone. MLS teams don’t have enough depth to go full blast into that competition. If I’m wrong, explain to me why MLS teams get knocked out in qualifying rounds by the Islanders and Montreal?

    If MLS is going to SERIOUSLY compete in that competition then I say go for it. But if we will insist on fielding 3 regulars and then all the rest and not be serious… MLS should take those competitions serious like UEFA and FC games in Europe.

    The window of integrity is small and trying to build a serious and respected league won’t happen if we continue to allow our teams to get smoked by USL teams…

  37. dantheblue says:

    Check that… Not FC… Champions League competitions…

  38. Kydetwsoc says:

    This is a set back to the whole region. a united western hemisphere would improve everything in the area’s soccer. competing with these teams only made Mexican teams and players better. it’s a sad loss that I don’t think will last as the dust settles from this people will get over the fears and reunite

  39. Esse says:

    Mexico is a third-world, backwards, poverty-stricken, disease-invested rat hole run by drug cartels.

    No surprise that they accept zero responsibility in this situation, and ONCE AGAIN, it’s someone else’s fault. In fact, that should be the national motto.

  40. JP says:

    I think this is great– now the CONCACAF Champions League will be Mexico’s top international competition, which can only be good for MLS teams.

  41. carnifex2005 says:

    For some reason people keep repeating the lie that the best Mexican teams aren’t in the CCL. They already are. From CONCACAF’s website…

    MEXICO: The tournament champions and runner-ups of the 2007 Apertura and 2008 Clausura seasons progress to the CONCACAF Champions Leagueâ„¢. If a team occupies more than one of the Mexican slots, then the next highest club in the respective regular season’s overall standings will take the lower seeded spot into the CONCACAF Champions Leagueâ„¢. Atlante FC and Pumas UNAM have qualified to the 2008-2009 CONCACAF Champions Leagueâ„¢ as the winner and runner-up, respectively, of the 2007 Torneo Apertura.

    It isn’t the CCL’s fault that the “big” Mexican teams have sucked the last couple of years. The only way this can help the CCL is with more sponsorship money.

  42. silent e says:

    Thank you, Esse, for your incredibly valuable insight into Mexico. It was, for me, so profound that I was left thinking that only if Octavio Paz were half as intelligent as you, his book on Mexico would not have been so needlessly long. Perhaps you could enlighten us with a description of South America, broken down by country? I think it would be of great assistance to any further discussion of this topic.

  43. silent e says:

    Esse, what does “disease-invested” mean, anyway? I didn’t realize diseases had investment plans.

  44. vic says:

    Europeans wiped out most indians in N. Amer. with diseases…whats wrong with them giving one back? As for soccer, Mexican teams pay the highest salaries (25 US dollars payroll for mexico city team)
    in all of Latin American soccer. They’re also the wealthiest country in Latin America, thats why TV contracts with Conmebol is so important.

  45. HE from NJ says:

    here’s hoping MLS gets the nod for the Libertadores.

    mexico teams did overreact, they are too proud with their soccer; they never make a mistake, and are sore losers (see Marquez, Rafa). All South American teams have a right to be worried about the health of their players. and bringing that disease over to their own land. Not even the Filipino boxer, Manny Pacquaio (after knocking out Hatton), was welcomed back to the Philippines!

    sucks for Mexico, more than for Conmebol; the Libertadores was fine before Mexican soccer appeared on the scene. sorry sebastian, i disagree with your second-to-last paragraph.

  46. Chase says:

    Carnifex,

    I wasn’t arguing that the CONCACAF CL is devoid of the best Mexican teams. Instead, that the Mexican and Spanish-lanuage American media giants can now throw their weight behind this competition, instead of Interliga and the Copa Lib.

    Also the notion being thrown around that MLS teams should be playing in the Copa Lib is ludicrous. The Copa Sud maybe, but Copa Lib, are you having a laugh?!

  47. Jamie Z. says:

    Nice, silent e.

  48. Beto says:

    cmon Conmebol needs Mexico more than Mexico needs Conmebol …. why ? because the MONEY is very important to conmebol, that´s why teams of Mexico are playing their tournaments , not for the development of the soccer of almost all the american continent, only is about the money … if you remember Pachuca and Toluca ( the best mexican team from 10 years ago ) doesnt have a good participation when they played a Conmebol tournament … so for this thing i´m sure that Mex doesnt need southamerican tournaments, in fact it will be great that the rivalry between USA and Mexico will improve of a couse of this issue … the only bad thing is that the MXNT and USNT will not be invited anymore to Copa America , so bad ….

  49. vic says:

    you’re right beto (good mexican nickname). maybe we should improve not just play in concacaf, but challenge Libertadores internationally in terms of TV. this may sound ridiculous, but why cant MLS teams, and especially high-payroll Mex teams, get highly paid foreign players from England, Spain, or Italy? If Mexican teams were sprinkled with European players, then Europeans may watch our tournaments if we schedule them AFTER Champions league….like during the summer when soccer fans in other parts of the world dont have anything to watch. Yes, I know we have to avoid the every 4 yrs Euro & World cup, but I think if we start being watch worldwide we wont have to come with our hat-in-hand as 2nd class citizens to get the crumbs from conmebol. To sum up: Club America and other wealthy mexican teams should get some european players.

  50. Beto says:

    European players Vic ?? …. no way !! , in your dreams , it will be better to invest more in CCL and the winner of the tournament will be able to go to the club world cup and a match ( home / visit ) with the Libertadores champion , what do u think about that ??

  51. gavion says:

    To say SA enjoyed the competition from Mexico is laughable. They are only aware of their own regional powers. And getting close to winning … that can be said of most teams that have played for awhile–big deal.
    Mexico (for once) is probably right to be offended. But.. this breakup won’t last … trust me. Everyone who is so concerned.. get real. This won’t last and they will patch things up.
    Frankly, I hope Mexico DOES withdraw. They already think they are so unique that they isolate themselves too much from the world. So by withdrawing they just shoot themselves in the foot and make themselves less competitive. Fine with me. They have a better capacity to shoot themselves in their own feet than any country I know.
    I wish the US would play in the SA tournaments if invited and not take the piss-poor team that they did last time.
    Mexico always makes a big thing of its pride, because thats basically all it has.