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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
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Mexico's Miguel Herrera clears the air about controversy

SANTIAGO -- "I'm going to clear up many issues"; with that emphatic phrase, Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera began his interview with ESPNDeportes.com. The coach was keen to talk, to clarify many issues regarding his recent decisions which are doing the rounds in soccer media circles. He went as far as to show his annoyance at the allegations leveled against him, as he believes that they should not be made lightly.

His first example related to the events of June 7 when he used his Twitter account to show his support for Mexico's "Green Party". His anger was clear to see when he claimed that people criticized him, saying that he did it for money. He denied any controversy and assured that his contract with the national team is based on clear, high-level objectives. He rejects any money which he has not earned, and trusts his players to earn it without compromising anything in between.

"There was talk of money being involved (in his message on social media), that they sought me out. It was my personal conviction, towards a person who I'm friendly with, towards people, not towards the party. I'm nonpartisan. It's nothing to do with money. If it was, I'd be asking for a bonus for the fourth game, for third, second or first place (in their Copa America group)," continued Herrera.

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"El Piojo" also claimed that, unlike his predecessors in the coaching role, he is the only one who doesn't earn a bonus for progressing in tournaments while in charge of the national side.

"I'll only earn a bonus if we come third here (at the Copa America), or reach the final. On the other hand, the team earn a bonus if they reach the quarterfinals. I don't earn anything for winning the Gold Cup; I only earn a bonus if I go to the Confederations Cup, but nobody mentions that. Nobody mentions that I arrived at Club America and they said to me: "You've got six months and if things don't work out, you're gone," and I took a chance on that. They talk about money. What money? That they sought me out? I did it because I believe in these people, who are doing a good job," he affirmed.

Later, the man who earns nearly three million dollars per year as Mexico head coach, recalled: "I'm the only coach who requested a (bonus for reaching) the fifth game (in the World Cup). All the others got a bonus for reaching the quarterfinals, all of them, but not me, I committed to reaching the fifth game. I could have taken the easy route and said, 'If there's no bonus for reaching the quarterfinals then go and find someone else, there's the World Cup...' Then comes the work; if I get results, I'll get my rewards. I get my salary just like anyone else. I get a bonus if I get results. If I don't get results then I don't get a bonus or a salary, because I'll be fired and be out of work. Nobody says this. Nobody says, 'This guy is taking a risk, this guy is going for it,'" explained the coach.

Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera has not shied away from making bold predictions about his squad at the Copa America.
Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera has not shied away from making bold predictions about his squad at the Copa America.

The interview itself lasted about 30 minutes and time and again, he stressed the confidence he has in his players, which is why he dares to set such high targets.

"I see how hard the boys work, because they showed this against Chile, because they repaid the confidence I have in them. They're the ones that make all this worthwhile. They're the reason I say that I'll earn a bonus if they achieve our objectives, because I'm confident in their abilities; that's why I set such high targets. I won't say the fourth game, I'll say the fifth, but give me more money for achieving that and I'll go for it, because I see what we've got out there on the pitch," stated the coach, reiterating the fact that if he said he believes they can win the title in Chile, it's because he genuinely believes it is possible.

"I could have been the first at this Copa America to say to my bosses, 'This team isn't going to win this tournament, I don't need to win this tournament, let's see how we get on,' but I didn't say that. I wasn't just paying lip service when I said, 'Let's try and win this thing,' I said it because I meant it."

He was very keen to clarify what took place on his Twitter account. He still thinks there are questions surrounding his interests, even beyond politics, surrounding the possibility that he received payment for posting a message of support. He affirmed that he does not belong to any party, and if the message was sent, it was because he has confidence in the people who represent a section of the Green Party.

"Nobody says that, everyone says that for a few pesos... nobody sells themselves for a few pesos; no matter how many pesos are on the line, you have your dignity and your way of thinking. I've always been right-leaning, I've supported various parties. When I was young I supported the PRI (Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party), which was big in my area. I realized I didn't like them and went to support the blues, the PAN (National Action Party), but in the end I didn't like them either so I became nonpartisan. That's it, I support people. If I think someone's doing a good job, I'll support them. If not, go and find someone who's doing a better job, someone who'll work better for you, someone who can save our nation," he continued.

However, beyond politics, Herrera believes he has a crucial role to play when it comes to the spirit of the Mexican people, and that role takes place on the pitch, where people can get excited, hope for revenge, feel alive and free. That's where he should be called on, that's where he has a responsibility through the performance of his players, and that's where he feels he should be judged, in all senses.

"The problem isn't the coach of the national team. I have a social responsibility, for the team to play well, and I'll deliver on this. I've never seen my players' heads drop, never. Then comes the work; if I get results, my rewards will come. I get my salary just like anyone else. I get a bonus if I get results. If I don't get results then I don't get a bonus or a salary, because I'll be fired and be out of work. Nobody says this. Nobody says, 'This guy is taking a risk, this guy is going for it.' Nobody," he concluded confidently.

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