Football: Mexico fire coach Herrera after alleged punching incident

Miguel Herrera.
Miguel Herrera.PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) - Mexico coach Miguel Herrera was fired on Tuesday, a day after he allegedly punched a reporter who had criticized his team's Copa America and Gold Cup performance.

Christian Martinoli, a sports journalist for Mexico's TV Azteca, said on Monday that Herrera threatened him and hit him in the neck at the Philadelphia airport as the Mexican team were heading home after winning the Concacaf Gold Cup tournament.

"Of what Miguel and I discussed, the only thing I can say is that it was very tough for Miguel," Decio de Maria, president of the Mexican Football Federation (FMF), told a news conference as he announced Herrera's departure.

De Maria said Herrera said he was sorry about the airport incident and would not repeat it. But he added, speaking on local radio: "You can't respond to aggression with aggression."

The journalist, Martinoli, had strongly criticized Herrera during the team's group stage exit from the Copa America.

TV Azteca's parent company, Grupo Salinas, had called on the FMF to launch an immediate investigation into the incident. The row followed a separate controversy last month.

Shortly before the Copa America, Herrera tweeted his support for Mexico's Green Party during midterm elections, prompting the FMF to say it would fine him for breach of ethics.

Herrera came into the job near the end of 2013 after Mexico had sacked three previous coaches as the team almost failed to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Scraping through the Concacaf qualifiers in fourth place, Mexico needed a playoff victory over Oceania group winners New Zealand to secure their berth in Brazil.

Nicknamed "El Piojo", or "Louse" in Spanish, Herrera's animated, energetic persona made him a star in Mexico, but in June his team performed poorly in Chile during the Copa America, the South American championship, failing to win a game.

That was a blow to Mexico, who had inherited a squad with a number promising young players from the under-23 side that won the Olympic football gold medal in London in 2012.

Mexico will now be looking for a new coach in time for a playoff in October against 2013 Gold Cup winners the United States for the Concacaf berth at the Confederations Cup in Russia in 2017 followed by the qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.