No place for politics

The diversity of the US team reflects what America is all about, says winger Bedoya



(Today, 8.45am)

Ahead of taking on Mexico in a highly charged clash, United States midfielder Alejandro Bedoya says the diverse make-up of the national team is a "true representation of what America is all about".

The always fiery World Cup qualifier between the two countries this morning (Singapore time) comes in the week of Donald Trump's election as US president after a campaign which featured controversial rhetoric from the Republican about illegal immigrants from Mexico.

The game also takes place in Ohio, one of the rust-belt states which helped deliver victory for Trump in Tuesday's ballot.

The Florida-born Bedoya, who is of Colombian descent, has not hidden his opposition to Trump during the campaign and, while stressing he didn't want the game to be "politicised", offered a reminder of the make-up of the US team.

"The one thing that I am very proud about is to be part of the US national team and the diversity that you see on this team - this is a true representation of what America is all about," said Bedoya.

The American team are coached by German Juergen Klinsmann and feature players from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds.

Defenders Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco are both Californians from Mexican-American families, who play for clubs in the Mexican league.

Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Julian Green and Timothy Chandler are all from mixed German and African-American parentage, while likely starting forward Jozy Altidore is from a Haitian-American family and his strike partner Bobby Wood was born in Hawaii of Japanese and African-American heritage.

"The diversity on this team is a truly awesome thing," said Bedoya, who added he did not expect any insults or tension between the two sets of supporters at the stadium.

"Everyone brings his passion here. This is what the beautiful game is all about. Football has always been a sport that has been able to unite many people. I would think that everyone comes out here, passionate as always," said the winger.

"This Columbus crowd has always been a good pro-American crowd and is the reason why we play these games here.


"The atmosphere is awesome and one of its kind and that is what people will bring here and, hopefully, nothing else. There is no need for negative chants from either side.

"People want to politicise this game, but I don't think there is a need for that," he said.

Bedoya's view was echoed by his coach Klinsmann.

"Football worldwide is a sport that connects people and gets people together and you have always a healthy competition," said the German.

"This is a big rivalry, a big match (but) it is purely a sporting event, a game of respect.

"We have a lot of respect for Mexico, their people and their team. So this is the wonderful side of sport - it brings people together."

Mexico's Colombian coach Juan Carlos Osorio agreed - rebuffing questions from the media focused on politics.

"I'm not here to talk politics," he said, insisting that the game has "nothing to do with politics".

Osorio believes his team have everything in place to finally end their Columbus jinx and get a victory over their arch-rivals this morning.

Since 2001, the two nations have met four times in Columbus in World Cup qualifiers and, on each occasion, the Americans have run out 2-0 winners.

But, with a talented team featuring a number of players now performing in top European leagues, Osorio thinks that run of losses can end.

"Mexico have it all. Great goalkeepers, elite-level defenders, midfielders who can compete and distribute and a high-quality attack that can trouble the United States," said Osorio.

"We have to penetrate them, hurt them and create problems," added the 55-year-old, who has previously worked in New York and Chicago in Major League Soccer. - AFP.



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