Toma Té: How I found myself through my dad and fútbol

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

typical Sunday morning in the Mier household during my childhood consisted of my mom cooking up huevo con chorizo in the kitchen and my dad sitting in the living room watching Liga MX, the Mexican soccer league, in his pajamas.

Now that I’m away at college, things are a little different. But a soccer game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this weekend allowed me to reminisce about my childhood love for Mexican soccer and how the sport forged an inseparable connection between me and my father, despite our differences.

This Sunday, the two biggest teams in Liga MX, Chivas de Guadalajara and Club América, face each other in a friendly match at the Coliseum. This matchup, to any educated fan, entails a battle on the field and stands that’ll most likely lead to multiple injuries and arrests.

Mexican soccer fans either hate or love one of these teams: there is no in-between and my dad is no exception.

As an avid Americanista, my dad wouldn’t miss a game, and as a result, neither would I. If América played at 3 p.m. on a Sunday and misa ended at 2:30 p.m, my dad would strategically sit closest to the door and would apurarnos as soon as the priest left the altar.

He’d rush us home and we’d sit to watch the game, listening to the starting lineups and analyzing the game formations. His passion for the game is unwavering, complete with commentary for every single play.

Foul called? Pinche árbitro vendido. (Someone paid this f-cking ref.) Missed free kick? Esa hasta yo la meto. (Even I could’ve made that.) New midfielder not playing up to expectations? No sé pa’ qué se lo trajeron… no sirve pa’ nada. (I don’t understand why they bought him… he’s good for nothing.)

I absorbed the passion he exuded. I knew all the players’ names, their athletic strengths and the last three teams they’d played for. I’d sometimes blurt out facts to make my dad proud and let him know that I was paying keen attention.

My love for mi papá and for fútbol heavily influenced my career goals, leading me to want to be  a soccer journalist. I fantasized about appearing on my favorite soccer shows on the Spanish version of ESPN. I envisioned myself sharing my opinions at the roundtable discussion, and mi papá proudly watching from home.

My love for the game also took control of my style (I would wear indoor soccer shoes everyday) and other extra curricular activities (I volunteered at San Jose Earthquakes games). Even my day to day schedule revolved around soccer games to the point where I’d wake up at 5 a.m. on weekends to watch Chicharito and Manchester United play in the Premier League.

Now that I’m in college, I no longer follow soccer religiously, set my alarm to catch games or know the names of all of Club América’s new players. But I still love the sport and use it to spark conversations with my dad who — in stark opposition to my boisterous and talkative nature — is more quiet and reserved.

In retrospect, soccer was my escape from realities I didn’t want to deal with. I definitely used the sport (and the masculinity of its culture) to suppress my sexuality and the challenges that would come with admitting I am the gay son of Catholic Mexican immigrants.

I was never sure about my sexuality growing up, but looking back I always knew that something was “different” about me. Soccer was the only avenue through which I could internalize the notion that “I’m not gay because I like soccer” and my parents could tell themselves, “ He can’t be gay because he likes soccer.”

To this day, soccer allows me to continue bonding with my dad, even if he doesn’t fully understand what it means for his son to be gay and whether that affects our relationship. At the end of the day, my sexuality has nothing to do with our bond. He and I will always be close and will always share our love for América and for soccer, even if my sexual preferences aren’t the ones he would have chosen for me.

I’ll always be his son and I’ll always be an Americanista — gay or not.

Tomàs Mier is a junior majoring in journalism. He is also the associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Toma Té,” runs every other Friday.