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Mexico's Golden Era: From Underdog to Champ

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Saturday's 2012 Olympic Final soccer match was a game for the books, as Mexico won its first gold medal and stunned not only its opponent, Brazil, but also its fans. The last time Mexican soccer placed at the Olympics was at the 1968 Mexico City Games, when we were beaten by Japan and lost a chance at the bronze. This past weekend not only represented a triumph for Mexico on the Olympic field but also for Mexican leadership on the world stage.

Sí, se puede, sí se puede, (Yes, it can be done, it can be done) was a motivating chant that flooded throughout Mexico's fan base to show support in each Olympic soccer game. First made famous in 1972 "sí se puede" was used in a rally by Cesar Chavez for fair wages for the United Farm Workers in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the past four decades, the phrase has been a popular mantra in Mexico and around the world for civil rights groups, political campaigns and, most notably, for Mexican soccer.

Certainly, Saturday's gold medal win comes from better training and a more disciplined approach, but it is likewise a definite change in attitude that pervades from the players in the field. This "attitude adjustment" is starting to take place at the macro level, as Mexican citizens are beginning to realize they can exhibit such pride in other areas of national importance too. Surely, the citizenry can learn something from our national team when it comes to self-perception, determination and the power of confidence.

Recently, in the face of Mexico's many existing problems, defeat seems to have permeated the country's collective pride. Let me provide an example. Every year, the World Economic Forum gathers the perception of business leaders in a number of countries through its Global Competitiveness Index. These are the business men and women in each country expressing their perception about their country's overall business climate. Usually Mexico ranks low on this survey. For instance in the 2010-11 survey Mexican CEOs ranked their own country the twelfth worst when it came to "ease of doing business" out of fourteen countries. When contrasting the same set of countries with a quantitative indicator, like the World Bank's Doing Business Index, Mexico was the third easiest country in which to do business. Furthermore, in the perception survey, CEOs ranked the country twelfth worst in the "effectiveness of its tax system" when Mexico really has the third most effective tax system out of the same fourteen countries, according to the Heritage Foundation's Economic Liberty Index. In both cases, Mexico ranked better than all BRIC countries yet none of the Mexican Executives believed that was true - that is, until the facts proved them wrong.

As I touched upon in my last article, Mexico is, undeniably, going through a challenging phase in its history. However, instead of cheering ourselves on and believing in our progress as a nation, we doubt our future and lack faith in our own powerful potential. Many other developing countries are also confronting sizeable challenges. Brazil, for example, faces a similar--if not more severe--fight against crime and poverty, yet these are not the defining elements shaping the world's perception of Brazil. Brazilians exude confidence and pride for what their country - a five time world soccer champion, can do.

After years of struggling, Mexico's national soccer team rose to new globally-competitive heights; the same is also true of the Mexican economy. The country's financial outlook, too, is receiving accolades from around the world. Last month, in his piece "Sorry Brazil, Investors love Mexico," Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza wrote about our favorable investment climate saying, "When it comes to portfolio investment, Mexico is the clear winner this year." Earlier in the summer, as reported by the BBC, David A. Shirk of the University of San Diego said, "If Mexico were a stock, now might be the time to buy. The country has been severely under-valued in recent years. Despite high rates of crime and violence elsewhere in Latin America, the media tend to focus relentlessly on Mexico's drug war." Yet, according to Shirk and others, the murder rate in Mexico is significantly lower than in Brazil, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.

In the Financial Times this June, Adam Thomson outlined Mexico's distinct investment advantages over China while highlighting the $18 billion USD in Foreign Direct Investment Mexico received just last year - its highest amount ever. Moreover, I had the pleasure of attending both the G20 and B20 Summits in Los Cabos this summer. The fact that they were held here in Mexico - and nowhere else - not only solidified our global prominence as a host site for over 400 of the world's leaders but also served as a fantastic showcase for our country's advanced environmental and cyber-security policies and our corporate success stories from Cinepolis to Bimbo to Cemex.

Indeed we Mexicans are in need of rewiring our mentality to one that truly believes in our very real achievements - not just on the soccer field, but in the board room, the classroom, the laboratory and on the streets. We have the tools, the success stories and we have accomplished great feats - the only thing missing is recognition. This Saturday, we seem to have gotten some of that.

Sí se puede will undoubtedly be a cheer that goes down in history. However - on the field and off - we are no longer chanting for the underdog. Today we are rooting for the reality that we are champs.