Miguel Herrera’s rollercoaster tenure as head coach of the Mexican national team is over.
The Mexican Football Federation fired Herrera on Tuesday, one day after he was accused of punching TV Azteca commentator Christian Martinoli in the neck while in line at the airport in Philadelphia, where Mexico won the Gold Cup title hours earlier.
“Violence does not fit into society, family and much less in any sport,” the FMF said in announcing the firing.
Herrera denied throwing the punch, telling journalist Alejandro Villalvazo, “Yes, I argued with him, but I didn’t hit him. I’m not that stupid.”
Martinoli tells a different story. He told AS Mexico (via ESPNFC):
“I looked down to avoid any kind of provocation and suddenly feel a blow to the neck on the right side of my body. The next thing I see when I look up Luis Garcia is separating a madman who threw punches and kicks while I was insulted.”
Martinoli says Herrera told him, “It will be like this each time I see you.”
It looks like this goes back to June, when Martinoli criticised Herrera following Mexico’s 2-1 loss to Ecuador to end their Copa America campaign in the group stage. In a tweet, Martonli called Herrera a “barrabrava,” basically a hooligan. Herrera responded by saying he hoped to find a place to settle their differences.
Philadelphia International Airport was apparently that place, although there’s no hard evidence that the incident took place like Martinoli says:
Herrera took over the national team when Mexico was in real danger of not qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. After getting them into the tournament in miracle fashion, Mexico played well in Brazil. They beat Croatia and Cameroon and drew with Brazil in the group stage, and only lost to the Netherlands after a phantom 94th-minute penalty on a dive by Arjen Robben. Herrera also became something of a cult figure for his animated nature on the sidelines:
Things weren’t quite as smooth after the World Cup. Mexico got eliminated in the group stage at the Copa America, and then struggled through their first three games in the Gold Cup. In the quarterfinal they beat Costa Rica on a controversial penalty in stoppage time, and in the semis they were down 1-0 in the 89th minute when the referee gave them a penalty so bad it delayed the game for 10 minutes and made a Panamanian official speculate that the game was fixed.
Still, Herrera won the Gold Cup with a 3-1 victory over Jamaica, booking a date with the US on October 9 to decide who goes to the Confederations Cup. Two days later, he’s out.
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