Each week on languagecaster’s podcast we feature a main report and on this week’s show we have an interview with an expert on Mexican football, Juan Pablo Camargo, who tells us all about the Primera División de México. You can listen to the report by clicking above.
The Mexican League
DF: Now for this week’s main report we have a special guest interview with top Mexican football blogger Juan Pablo Camargo and is going to tell us all about the Mexican League. We met recently down by the River Thames here in London and I started by asking him about the structure of the Mexican league which often looks rather confusing to outsiders.
Juan Pablo: I think to understand the league you should think about it as maybe the North American leagues of baseball, no, or even American football I think that’s the most useful. Because we are divided in groups and we don’t play … for example in England you play for points and the one who has more points in the end wins. So in Mexico you just play and then you qualify to the play-offs. The first two teams of each group or three teams qualify to the play-offs and then in the play-off you can be a champion even though you qualified in the eighth place.
DF: So the eighth best team could be the supreme champion of Mexican football for example?
JP: It happens a lot actually. We have two tournaments a year – apertura and clausura – and we play from August to December and you can be champion there and then you can start again in January and be the champion in June.
DF: So this particular structure is similar to Argentina or other countries in South America?
JP: They copied the two leagues from Argentina because we used to have the one whole … the one whole year league… with play-offs.
DF: OK, how are the groups organised? Is it geographical?
JP: Er… no, randomly weird Mexican federation criteria.
DF: I mean, what’s the feeling of Mexican football fans, are they happy with the structure?
JP: We’re happy with the structure because the league is not that competitive so the play-offs make it pretty fun. But basically you don’t care about the league in the regular season and you start caring in the… in the play-offs, so that’s fun. But we think that really affects, like, our level of competition internationally because teams are just lazy all year long.
DF: Interesting. Now obviously you are a Pumas fan, what are the big teams in Mexican club football? Can you tell us a little bit about the big teams in Mexico and maybe some of the rivalries that they enjoy?
JP: Sadly, the biggest team is Guadalajara, Chivas, they are the most popular team. They are from the second biggest city in Mexico and the thing… the fact is that they are popular because they have this … philosophy of just having Mexican players in the team so people in Mexico feels that they are supporting … feel that they are supporting Mexico if they support Chivas. And the second big team is América who is like the arch-rival from Guadalajara so that is the classic, it’s like the Barcelona- Real Madrid should be that. In the last years, they have like, used that a lot for marketing so they have played a lot of friendly matches between them so I think it’s lost its soul but that’s the big rivalry. Then the third one, the biggest one would be Cruz Azul from Mexico City too and the fourth one in popularity would be Pumas. So, between Pumas and Cruz Azul there is also a big rivalry but between these whole four it’s the biggest rivalry in all football like Pumas fans hate América fans and those are really even dangerous games. The other big, big rivalry is in the north, in Monterrey, we have two teams, Monterrey and Tigres, who are from the university, so that’s one of the biggest rivalries there too.
DF: Fantastic. Now how is the league going this season? Who is doing well and who is doing not so well?
JP: As this week, it’s … Monterrey is in the first place, Chivas was doing amazing actually this year and they’re in second place but they were unbeaten in the first six, seven games. So Chivas is going pretty well and actually the big teams are in the first eight now, Pumas is in fourth, Cruz Azul is in seventh, America is in eight. But again, like, in two weeks maybe another team can just start winning and be the champions – it’s not a guarantee to be in the top spot in Mexico.
DF: When will the play-offs start?
JP: The play-offs start in mid-May, I think, and they run for three weeks because it’s just quarter-finals, semi-final and finals.
DF: OK, so you’re confident that your team UNAM will be there?
JP: Definitely, UNAM will be there.
DF: And do you think they can win the whole thing?
JP: They are playing way better than last year. Last year they ended up in the last place but the year before… the tournament before that they were champions so basically they have the same team as last time they won the championship so I think they have a pretty good shot but the problem is that a lot of players from these big teams are going to start joining the Mexican squad for the World Cup so the play-offs would be with no … big players, so that really can…
DF: Wow, that’s amazing I could not imagine the Premier League sanctioning that with England players. So, you’re saying that the top players from the clubs will leave to join the Mexican World Cup squad?
JP: That’s correct, yes. They usually take like one month of concentration or two months to get the team done…
DF: Well, good luck to Pumas and I hope they do very well this season.
Juan Pablo’s blog is at http://www.futbolmexico.mx/