When words fail, soccer becomes the common language in Mexico.
Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez, the cowboy governor of Nuevo León, understands that, which is why he challenged a group of protesters to a pickup soccer game last week as a way of defusing tensions over a teachers' strike.
The grudge match pit government employees against sympathizers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), a radical faction of teachers’ unions that has led an unpopular and often times violent nationwide strike against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education reform.
But last Tuesday all that tension and energy in Nuevo León was redirected to the soccer pitch.
The event was a bit of a media stunt by the governor, whose squad won the match 2 - 0. But it led to a post-game talk between both sides. Nobody was arrested, shot or suffered any non-soccer related injuries.
The battle for the future of Mexico’s education is extremely complicated and clearly won't be resolved on the soccer field, but the gesture did prove there are creative ways to bring both sides together to let off a little steam.