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US won't protest taunting

The US Soccer Federation will not protest the taunting of its players by Mexican fans, some of whom chanted "Osama! Osama!" during Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the home team in the Olympic qualifying tournament in Guadalajara.

"That sort of gamesmanship and crowd reaction is something we're used to," spokesman Jim Moorhouse said yesterday, before the United States lost the consolation match to Honduras in a penalty shootout. "A lot of it has nothing to do with soccer, and our players understand that."

Though US Olympic officials were annoyed by what they considered a tasteless reference to a tragic event, they did not make a formal complaint. "We're disappointed, but we also understand that the actions of a few are not representative of an entire stadium full of spectators," said committee spokesman Darryl Seibel. "Those individuals who chose to participate in the chanting showed a complete lack of sensitivity."

The Americans, who were soundly outclassed by their archrival neighbors for most of the evening, had heard the "Osama" chant (a reference to Osama bin Laden, alleged orchestrator of the Sept. 11 attacks) from local fans during a previous match against Canada.

"We're going to hear the bad words and everything, but you know, we're looking forward to it," US player DaMarcus Beasley said before the semifinal with Mexico at Estadio Jalisco. The US-Mexico men's rivalry, which goes back 70 years, has heated up considerably in recent years, especially after the Americans knocked out Mexico in the second round of the 2002 World Cup in Korea. "The [local fans] hate us," observed Landon Donovan, who played for both the World Cup and under-23 (i.e. Olympic) teams against the "Tricolor."The stakes were much higher Tuesday, with the winner qualifying for this summer's Athens Games and the loser staying home. But except for the "Osama" chants, which Moorhouse said were made by a small portion of the nearly 60,000 fans, US team members noticed relatively little anti-American sentiment. "I think the fans in Mexico are terrific," coach Glenn Myernick said after the match. "I think their patriotism and support of their team is terrific. Unless I missed something, not one of them came down on the field and kicked the ball. We were beaten by a better team, not by the fans."

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