A clash of cultures

A clash of cultures

The soccer rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico has been called one of the most complex in the world. The latest film by documentarian Michael Whalen explores why.

Many Americans are passionate about long-standing sports rivalries like the New York Giants versus the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the San Francisco Giants, but mention U.S. versus Mexico and they may not even know what sport is being discussed. Not so in Mexico.

The sport is soccer and the rivalry between the two teams has been called one of the most intense in the world. Michael Whalen, associate professor in SCU’s Department of Communication, joined up with co-producers/directors Pablo Miralles and Roberto Donati to explore why. Their film, Gringos at the Gate, premieres June 27 at this year’s Kicking + Screening Film Festival in New York.


“Soccer is tribal. It connects you to your heritage and helps define who you are.”


Gringos looks at the long history, the teams, the trends, and the fans involved in the rivalry. These subjects are explored through the experiences of people on both sides of the border. “When you see a soccer game in the U.S. and a crowd of 90,000 out of 92,000 are cheering for the away team … you have to ask yourself why,” Miralles says.

Whalen adds, “Soccer is tribal. It connects you to your heritage and helps define who you are like no other sport in the world. That’s what makes the U.S.-Mexico rivalry so intense … it forces family members and neighbors to choose sides.”

In making the film, the trio traveled to both U.S. versus Mexico 2010 World Cup Qualifiers, the 2011 Gold Cup Final, and crisscrossed the both countries interviewing fans, players, coaches, commentators, and people on the street.

Read a Q&A with the filmmakers on the Kicking + Screening website and watch a trailer for the film below. If you’re in New York on June 27, be sure to attend the premiere!

An article on Michael Whalen’s last documentary, A Question of Habit, was in the Fall 2011 Santa Clara Magazine.

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