Club de Fútbol América SA de CV, known more simply as Club América, Las Águilas, or simply “América”, is the most successful team in Mexican soccer. Despite that success, or more likely because of it, they are also the most despised team in Mexican soccer, the high-spending, perk-scoffing goliath that everyone else loves to hate. In Club America vs Club Americaa new six-part documentary series on Netflix, we take a look inside the Azteca Stadium and hear both sides of the story.
Opening shot: A montage of television coverage of Club América alternates between moods: the team enters the set of a variety show while happily singing their fight song, interspersed with sports commentators lamenting the club’s dysfunction. A narrator wryly intones, “yes, yes, yes. There is no way to deny it. When it comes to America, you either love it or you hate it. But that’s exactly why this is a story worth telling, right?
The essence: As Netflix has worked to keep up with the competition in the streaming wars, they have increased their sports-focused content offerings in recent years. This has often included importing international content and redesigning it for American viewers. that’s the case with Club America vs Club Americaa six-part documentary mini-series presented in Spanish with English subtitles, presenting a solid foundation course in understanding not only the titular Club América, but the underlying dynamics in Mexican soccer in general.
What shows will it remind you of? There are plenty of parallels here with single-team documentaries, but in format and subject matter, it perhaps feels more like the Amazon Prime feature film. All or nothing Serie.
Our take: If you’re an outsider trying to understand an unfamiliar sports culture, the best place to start might be to ask, “Who do we hate and why?”
Full disclosure, up front: I am not qualified to review Club America vs. Club America as an observer with a keen sense of the nuances and history of Liga MX soccer; He didn’t come in knowing much about the dynamics of the league or its various fandoms. But that’s what makes this series a useful doc for me, and possibly for you too, because for any new fan walking down the street, the first thing to know is who’s the bad guy.
Club America is the bad guy.
They are the braggart, arrogant, boastful team with the most cups and the need to constantly remind you that they have the most cups. They are the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, The Alabama Crimson Tide or the New England Patriots. Unless you’re a fan of all of those teams at once, in which case, I’ve got to tell you, you’re a terrible person, I bet the mere mention of them made your blood a little stir.
Oh yeah, fuck those guys.
That is the niche that Club América inhabits in Mexican soccer; they are the stalkers. For a long time they have had all the advantages, due in large part to their owners, the Latin American television conglomerate Televisa. They are the rich kids, the ones who can buy the best players and spend their way to victory.
It just hasn’t been working lately.
They’ve hit a rough patch, at least by their championship-or-die standards, and the dysfunction is on display; in that sense, they might be closer to the Yankees of the George Steinbrenner era, or the… well, the Los Angeles Lakers of today. Money isn’t everything, and when you spend that much and don’t win a title, it’s heartbreak for you and upset for everyone else.
The pilot episode does a good job of explaining the context to a stranger like me; Beginning with a near miss in a quarterfinal match in 2021, then rewinding to 1959, when the team came under the ownership of Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, the founder of Televisa, a man known as “El Tigre” for his intense, intense personality. combative. “This guy didn’t pull any punches,” offers the narrator. “Whenever he wanted something, he just took it.”
Historian Héctor Hernández offers a clear summary of that historical turning point. “When Mr. Azcárraga Milmo acquired América, he told the players in his first meeting with them, ‘I don’t know anything about soccer, but I do know about business, and I will make this a profitable business.’ Just as Azcárraga Milmo was building his television empire on the popularity of soap operas, he applied the same dynamic to building America, developing a fondness for charismatic movie-star-type actors, especially those who could play the villain. He delivered on his promise and launched a new era of success for the team, winning cups and developing generations of devoted fans and even more devoted haters.
This history lesson is useful, to be sure, but mostly because of how it sets the stage for where we are now. “Anyway, America hasn’t won titles for several years,” the narrator sings, bringing us back to the present and to the narrative arc that this series intends to follow. Can America recapture the glory days of her? Or will they continue to falter?
Sex and skin: None. Only sports here.
Parting shot: “Transitions are not easy in football,” says current América player Guillermo Ochoa. “The most important thing at this stage is to try to integrate and work in a better way according to the demands of Club América.” It’s a pretty standard sound byte from a professional athlete, and narrator Ballarta naturally has to liven it up a bit. “The challenge has not changed. Whoever arrives in America must make history by winning championships. And it is our job to keep challenging, driving ambition, finding strength in our identity and pride to live up to this team. It’s crystal clear, right? When you put it that way, it’s hard to argue.
sleeping star: Credit here goes to narrator, comedian, and actor Carlos Ballarta, who keeps this story light and entertaining with a wry, wry tone and a fan’s perspective throughout. Learning about an unknown sport can go dry without historical context, but Ballarta is determined that doesn’t happen here.
Most of the Pilot-y line: “Everyone gives you a hard time,” says an America fan with an ironic smile, “‘Yes, the rich kids of America, because it’s from Televisa,’ well… yes, then?” It’s a family dynamic, fans of the goliath team laugh at criticism with a haughty “jealousy?”
Our call: TRANSMIT IT. It’s a tall order to make an entertaining sports documentary for someone who’s not yet a fan of the teams involved, but Club America vs. Club America it achieves this with a light, entertaining tone and an energetic beat.
Scott Hines is a Louisville, Kentucky-based architect, blogger, and savvy internet user who publishes the popular Action Cookbook Newsletter.