Mexicans wave goodbye to Herrera, despite Cup triumph

Exuberant Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera lost his position after allegedly punching a TV reporter, who had criticised the team's lacklustre Gold Cup performances, at Philadelphia airport.
Exuberant Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera lost his position after allegedly punching a TV reporter, who had criticised the team's lacklustre Gold Cup performances, at Philadelphia airport.PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY • Miguel Herrera, the combustible Mexico coach famed for his exuberant touchline displays, has made a public apology after he was fired for punching a TV reporter two days after leading his team to victory in the Gold Cup .

Herrera was sacked by the federation president Decio de Maria, who said his conduct was not in keeping with "the spirit of fair and respectful competition" it espouses.

Christian Martinoli, a journalist with TV Azteca, accused Herrera, 47, of punching him as the pair waited in the Transportation Security Administration line at Philadelphia airport on Monday, a day after Mexico's 3-1 victory over Jamaica.

De Maria said: "After listening to all my colleagues, I have made the decision to take Herrera out of the national team. It is not a simple decision, but it is the correct one.

"Matches never finish, and as public figures we have to keep that in mind. Everyone has had an opinion, but our values have to be kept, and no one can be above the type of situation we saw on Monday at the Philadelphia airport."

In a statement after his exit was announced, Herrera apologised to his players, staff, fans, the federation and the media for his conduct in "the painful incident I had with a commentator".

"It is clear to me that this is not the attitude that a coach for the Mexican national team should take, despite having received all manner of criticisms, offences and mockery of my family and my person," said Herrera, who compiled a record of 19 wins, 11 draws and seven losses since taking up the job at the end of 2013 .

Martinoli, who had been critical of Herrera during Mexico's Gold Cup run, told AS Mexico that he ran into the national team when he got past security at the airport. There, he said, Herrera punched him in the neck, then challenged him to a fight outside.

Another source confirmed the events to AS Mexico, saying Herrera told Martinoli that they should leave the terminal and head to the street to "fix this like it should be fixed".

Martinoli said after the incident at the airport: "Everyone will have his version of events, and he probably will deny it. I have no doubt."

After the incident, Azteca urged "a prompt and urgent investigation" by the Mexican federation.

"We are surprised and concerned by the behaviour of the national team coach," the statement said. "The Mexican soccer federation should not allow attacks like the one suffered by our colleague."

Despite winning the trophy, Herrera was widely criticised by spectators and pundits for his team's lacklustre performances in the Gold Cup, the regional tournament for Concacaf nations.

After a poor showing in the group stage, where they won just one of their three games, Mexico needed controversial late penalties against Costa Rica and Panama to advance to the final.

De Maria said the federation would not be in any rush to appoint a new coach ahead of an Oct 9 play-off against the United States for Concacaf's berth at the Confederations Cup in 2017 followed by the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

Among the candidates are Mexican league coaches Gustavo Matosas of Atlas and Pedro Caixinha of Santos Laguna, former national coach Victor Manuel Vucetich and Marcelo Bielsa, head of French team Olympique Marseille.

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Mexicans wave goodbye to Herrera, despite Cup triumph'. Print Edition | Subscribe