It was an end of an era, so to speak, Wednesday night for the Mexican National Team when 35-year-old Cuauhtémoc Blanco played his final match for El Tri -- a 3-0 win over Canada in a CONCACAF qualifier.
How you feel about the temper mental talent probably is tied to which side of the Rio Grande you lie. In Mexico, he's a hero in some corners -- mainly for his work at Club America. Meanwhile, in the U.S. most ardent fans like myself possess feelings for him that can't even be published on the Inter-nets.
From an American perspective Blanco is pretty loathed for his work in the green, white and red kit, probably second behind current captain Rafa Marquez. Blanco is part of a generation of El Tri that figured it was their birth rite to defeat the U.S. by hook or by crook -- including shall we say questionable tactics. (Things are a little different nowadays, where guys like Pavel Pardo play the game with respect toward the U.S.)
While he might be hated by most U.S. fans, there is no denying that Blanco was a very unique talent and finished as Mexico's third all-time leading scorer with 34. That includes tallies in two World Cups (1998, 2002) and six in the 1999 Confederations Cup.
He'll press on with the Chicago Fire in MLS, though he's banned forever from U.S. Open Cup play.
Though he won't be recalled fondly, part of me will miss Blanco in the El Tri shirt, simply because the sporting world needs its fair share of characters and villains. For me, Blanco represents big, bad Mexico, the Mexico that the U.S. can never defeat at Azteca. That rivalry created the animosity and subsequently the USMNT's best all-time win, defeating Mexico 2-0 in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. Blanco's angry, hopeless scowl as the clock ticked toward 90 made it all the more satisfying.
(It's doubtful too many gringos will miss spelling your first name, either.)