By Ben de Buen
“Imagine a football team that belongs to a cement company but hasn’t built their own stadium.”
These words are often enunciated by my good friend and sporadic Thin White Line contributor, Farid, when referring to Deportivo Cruz Azul, Western Sydney’s first rival in the FIFA Club World Cup.
It’s true. The team that represents one of Mexico’s main cement companies has to pay rent at Estadio Azul in Mexico City. And their recent history is woeful. Plenty are the perils that follow the “Blue Cross.”
Success then drought
After a successful silverware harvest in the 1970s, they did not win anything for 17 years. Since their last League title in 1997, Cruz Azul have lost five League finals and two Concacaf Champion’s League finals.
In May 2013, during the final against America, the “Celestial Cement Machine” was only half a minute away from a victory that would finally hush their many critics. 93 minutes into the final at the Azteca, América was granted a corner kick. America’s goal keeper, ran across the grounds in search of a miracle, which he found in the form of a diving header that sent the match into overtime and eventually penalty kicks. Cruz Azul loses again.
The celestial machine finally won something this year in the form of the Concacaf Champions League, a tournament that Mexican clubs have won every year since 2006. While it represents a continental title, it is a long way from the merits of a Copa Libertadores or the UCL.
The bad news for Wanderers
The bad news for WSW is that Cruz Azul has had quite remarkable performances in most of their competitions, and it’s only in the final that the Cement Machine runs out of steam. Since 1997 they have been minor premiers a number of times, showing dominance during the league’s round robin, only to flounder in the finals against teams that barely made the grade. In keeping with their style, it would be likely for them to qualify for the next round against the ACL winners and then re-interpret some outrageous form of defeat.
Copa Libertadores and Boca Juniors
In 2001, Cruz Azul became the Mexican club that has come closest to winning the Copa Libertadores, the most important title available in the Americas. They dispatched Argentine giants River Plate and Rosario Central, and then played the home and away final against Boca Juniors.
Boca defeated Cruz Azul 1-0 in the Estadio Azteca (which Cruz Azul borrowed or maybe hired at an hourly rate).
Against all odds, the Celestial Machine won by the same result in Buenos Aires. Entering La Bombonera for a Libertadores final is like entering the most dangerous of the world’s ghettos. Defeating Boca on their turf is about as close to stealing fire from the gods as you can get, far more difficult than any of the titles that have escaped Cruz Azul in recent times.
It was an unusual time for Mexican football with the rarity that fans from all teams rallied behind Cruz Azul, a side that is mostly known for it’s popularity amongst the biggest consumers of cement: construction workers. Despite the 1-1 aggregate, Cruz Azul lost to Boca in penalty kicks.
Nowadays, people share memes about their hopeless fate. Much time and money has been invested and wasted on this team, which is now led by Luis Fernando Tena, the same coach who brought home Mexico’s first Olympic Gold in 2012. Nevertheless, Cruz Azul did not make the finals in the recently concluded Liga MX.
A team of cement and irony.