PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago -- Cuauhtemoc Blanco may be one of Mexico's all-time greatest stars, but many feel he didn't conquer Europe and become a bona fide worldwide icon due to one particular incident back on Oct. 8, 2000.
That World Cup qualifier between Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago provided probably the most historic moment in a game between the countries, who lock horns on Tuesday at Haseley Crawford Stadium.
With 72 minutes on the clock at Estadio Azteca and El Tri 6-0 up, Trinidad and Tobago defender Ancil Elcock made a reckless high lunge toward the rapid Blanco, who was 27 and had not long been playing his club football at Real Valladolid. It was a life-changing moment for both footballers.
Blanco was forced out for six months with a cruciate ligament tear in his right knee and lost some pace on his return, while Elcock is still a famous name in both Trinidad and Mexico, where he was labeled "El carnicero" (the butcher). He still finds it difficult to talk about the incident that marked his career.
"For the last like 15 years, [since] the last qualifier that I played in Mexico when I got the red card, I've been apologizing to [Blanco] and his family on behalf of my family and I and the public of Trinidad and Tobago," said the 48-year-old in an interview with ESPN FC in the hills outside Port of Spain on Tuesday. "Again, I'd like to say, I'm sorry. It wasn't willful, [it was] unfortunate."
- ESPN FC Mexico (@ESPNFCtri) March 28, 2017
Elcock, who played over 100 games in MLS for the Columbus Crew, didn't relive the tackle until four years later, when a friend showed it to him on YouTube and said Mexico fans still haven't forgotten. Back in January, Elcock was in Orlando, Florida when he had to write his name down in a store and was instantly recognized, causing cameras to be brought out and Elcock to recall the incident one more time.
"I'm not only a celebrity in Trinidad, but also a celebrity in Mexico, too," said Elcock, who will be at the World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.
Elcock hasn't spoken to 44-year-old Blanco since the tackle, which the former Soca Warriors star still finds difficult to discuss, but he wants to reach out to the Mexico star in the name of friendship and forgiveness.
Elcock currently coaches youngsters and is hoping to develop talent in his homeland, where he is in the process of setting up a foundation. He wants to invite Blanco -- who is currently mayor of the Mexican town of Cuernavaca -- to bring a team of youngsters on his birthday (March 17) next year to the recreation ground named after him in Frederick Settlement near Port of Spain. There, he plans to offer an olive branch and draw a line under an incident that shaped both their careers and lives.
Whether Blanco, who said earlier this year that the tackle ended his chances of moving to Real Madrid, responds remains to be seen.