Mexico welcomed the appointment of new coach Sven Goran Eriksson with general optimism that he could lead the team to unscaled heights at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. However, there were also some dissenting voices, mainly focusing on the coach's scant knowledge of the Spanish language and the local footballing scene.
"I'm very proud to be coach of Mexico, because Mexico is great, both as a country and as a footballing nation," said the former Manchester City boss in Spanish when he first addressed the press. "Right now, I'm struggling to talk to you Spanish but I hope to be speaking it better next time. For now, I'll speak in English please."
Multi-lingual and multi-talented
Even though the Swede has not yet learned the language of his new employers, there is every reason to expect him to do so before long. Eriksson is already fluent in four languages, including Portuguese and Italian, both closely related to Spanish. However, his biggest challenge with managing El Tri will most certainly not be a linguistic one.
Much is now expected of the new coach, as confirmed by CF Guadalajara (Chivas) owner Jorge Vergara, who was one of the main advocates of the Swede's appointment. "The objective now is to reach the final of the World Cup," he said firmly. His sentiments were echoed by Pumas president Victor Mahbub, who insisted: "We have to become champions, and that's the goal we're establishing right from the start."
The lofty ambitions of Vergara and his fellow owners are based on Eriksson's long and successful coaching career in which he picked up 19 titles in Sweden, Portugal and Italy. His vast experience includes winning the UEFA Cup with Gothenburg, leading Benfica to runners-up spot in the old European Cup and managing the English national team for five years
Several members of the Mexican media declared themselves delighted with the arrival of the 60-year-old. Among their number was David Faitelson, one of the country's best-known analysts, who described the appointment in historic terms. "I celebrate, applaud and delight in the decision Mexican football has taken today. Not only is it about the arrival of Sven-Goran Eriksson... it's about a new conviction and desire on the part of those in charge of Mexican football to explore the kind of horizons we wouldn't have dared look at in the past."
*Dissenting voices * However, not all sections of Mexican football welcomed the news of the Swede's appointment. Many of their arguments centre on the fact that he will have little time to get his bearings before the start of the group phase qualifiers for South Africa 2010 in August and his dearth of knowledge of Mexican football.
In this camp was Monterrey president, Luis Miguel Salvador, who said: "Who he is going to have in his squad if he doesn't know the Mexican players? As I see it, there isn't enough time and I think he probably won't be up to speed with Mexican football, the players, the CONCACAF and our opponents."
Also voicing concern were some members of the Mexican squad, among them PSV Eindhoven defender Carlos Salcido. "It took me three or four months to get used to a country where no one spoke Spanish. Given the [short] time we have until the World Cup qualifiers, we can't afford to just see what happens, or wait and see if the coach is suitable and able to quickly adapt to everything. That said, maybe he will adapt quickly and it will all be good, but there's not a whole lot of time until the qualifiers."
There was also doubts expressed in the press. Andre Marin, a renowned TV analyst, wrote an open letter to the new coach in the Excélsior newspaper, saying: "I don't believe you're the appropriate choice to manage the national team, but you've been officially appointed now so all I can do is wish you well so that Mexico qualify for the World Cup in South Africa."
While opinions clearly vary on Eriksson's appointment, for the coach it is straight down to work. Today the Swede travels to the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to watch Mexico take on Argentina in a friendly. Outgoing caretaker manager Jesus 'Chucho' Ramirez will be at the helm there, as he will be for their next friendly against Peru and their FIFA World Cup qualifier against Belize this month. The new coach officially takes over in August, when his latest challenge will really begin.