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Mexico's Soccer Coach Fired After Punching TV Reporter


He's been a hilarious one-man spectacle on the soccer sidelines, leaping around, gesturing wildly with goofy facial expressions. I'm talking about Miguel Herrera, the coach of Mexico's national team - make that former coach. He's been fired after he allegedly punched a Mexican journalist in the neck, a TV commentator who's been highly critical of the coach and the team's performance. The encounter happened at the Philadelphia International Airport. And Herrera's firing comes just two days after the Mexican national team won the Gold Cup in Philly. ESPN soccer commentator Fernando Palomo says exactly what went down at the airport is sketchy, but something did happen.

FERNANDO PALOMO: It's clear from the versions provided by both parties that there was an altercation, and it turned physical at some point. But it wouldn't take physical violence for me to disapprove of the actions.

BLOCK: Well, help us understand what's been going on with the Mexican national team. Ten head coaches in nine years - now it's going to need another one.

PALOMO: Well, it's this reflection of a cultural habit - very impatient soccer culture that wants things to happen immediately and won't take failure as an option. And this is, again - it's a deeper discussion, I believe, but one that I'm extremely fascinated by - how our cultures tend to think that we have to provide - have our answers provided by one single individual. And when the answers are not provided, the person is to blame. And that person is the head coach of the national team. In Germany, throughout the history of their national team, they've had 10 coaches.

BLOCK: How is the news of Miguel Herrera's firing being received by fans in Mexico?

PALOMO: The fan base is split on the decision. Some disapprove of the firing, and I guess most of those that disapproved actually would have liked to do the same thing that Miguel Herrera did to that journalist. And the other half is just tired of the fact that the coach - the head coach - takes so much of the light upon himself. He was accepted to begin with because of his exuberant personality, and now his exuberant personality makes him a victim of the role he took.

BLOCK: Well, he has been hugely entertaining to watch on the sidelines - I mean, his gestures, his crazy faces, that hair, that mop of hair that seems to have a life of its own. Do you expect that the next Mexican national coach will be as dramatic, flamboyant, exuberant as Miguel Herrera has been?

PALOMO: I think they will tend to go to a more subdued person, and I think that the more they decide to go on that direction, the more they'll miss Bill Herrera because the discussion relied too much on the coach and very little on the soccer. And it saved Mexico from having a soccer discussion they should've had before because the team wasn't performing.

BLOCK: Oh, so it was a distraction.

PALOMO: He was a distraction, yes. And the team wasn't - and he took a lot of the load away from the players, and the players like that. When players don't get the type of criticism that the coaches get, well, the players are better off. But now the discussion is to turn on the soccer.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Palomo, thanks so much for talking with us today.

PALOMO: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Fernando Palomo is a soccer commentator for ESPN. We were talking about the firing of the head coach of Mexico's national soccer team two days after they won the Gold Cup in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.