Koreans and Mexicans are Now (and Always Were) Brothers

One of the quirky things I’ve grown to love about the World Cup is the dual-stage format, which ensures everyone gets at least three games in the Group Stage before moving on or going home.

The round-robin format of this stage occasionally leads to a situation like we had on Wednesday, where Mexico’s fate was not being determined by their game in Ekaterinburg Arena, but rather by one happening 600 miles away. The situation looked like this: should the Koreans beat Germany or hold them to a draw, Mexico would secure second place in Group F and advance. Should South Korea lose, it would be Germany in the Knockout Stage and Mexico going home.

In the end, South Korea scored twice in stoppage time counter attacks to eliminate the defending champions and push Mexico through to the next round. It didn’t take long for joyous viral videos to surface of Mexican fans celebrating like crazy; serenading Korean fans at soccer stadiums and even at the South Korean embassy in Mexico.  

“¡Coreano, hermano, ya eres mexicano,” they sang, which meant, “Korea, brother, you are now Mexican!”

Sports, man…they bring out the best in us.

It wasn’t but ten minutes later that my mind flashbacked to a story I had read just a week earlier about Mexican soccer fans. Apparently they had been chanting divisive slurs at opposing players in their opening match (something they are known for), and FIFA was threatening to take action against them.

Sports, man…they bring out the worst in us.

So, are Mexico’s fans to be celebrated for their warm cheers or chastised for their insensitive slurs? Can I do both, or do I have to take a stand and spout a hot take to get likes and a heated debate going on Facebook?

We are the generation that is more connected than ever, and yet far too often we use our voices to sow discord and tear others down. Every era of culture has something it becomes known for, and it seems this may be ours. Smartphones and social media have given everyone a megaphone, and so many are using theirs to tear down, not build up. “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if you don’t like it, get out of my echo chamber.”

It’s the reason so many of us contemplate disconnecting from social media on a routine basis. But then, just as we’re about to unplug, there’s a video of a dog rescuing a child from a pond or a deployed marine surprising his kids at a school assembly, and we’re filled with hope again. There are Koreans and Mexicans celebrating side by side, calling each other brothers. There is good happening in the world, and sharing these moments with others can bring such joy.

I loved watching the videos of the Mexican fans celebrating with South Koreans, but it also made me wonder if it should have taken a soccer score to create such harmony. Because here’s the truth of the matter: had the outcome on the pitch gone differently for Mexico – had South Korea lost to Germany, ending Mexico’s World Cup – the sentiment would still have been 100% true, even if no one was shouting it in the streets.

“¡Coreano, hermano, ya eres mexicano.”

“Korea, brother, you are now Mexican!”

Regardless of the score, regardless of who moves on and who goes home, we ARE all brothers and sisters. Sports, when they are at their best, have always been about showcasing that. No matter your income level, no matter your social status, no matter the condition of your field, we can all participate, be it on the field or in the stands. We can all feel the joy of a win, the disappointment of a loss, and the satisfaction of giving it our all.

I guess the World Cup is a lot like life in that way. There is ugly and there is beauty. There is tragedy and there is triumph. There are Mexican fans chanting slurs at opposing players, and there are Mexican fans calling Korean fans their brothers. It shows us we have a long way to go, but the glimpses of joy and brotherhood give us hope that we may be on our way to getting there.

As the Knockout Stage kicks off tomorrow and we work our way towards a 2018 champion, I can say that I’ve learned this tournament is aptly named. It really is a reflection of the world.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s soccer, football or futból. This game brings people together.”

Alex Morgan

Bryan Allain has spent 41 years of his life ignoring soccer in favor of the Red Sox and golf, the REAL beautiful game. (His words not ours). This is the account of his 30-day, all in, deep dive on the premier showcase of the most popular sport on earth, the 2018 World Cup.