I Remember it like it was yesterday. First day in the university and a younger version of me entered his first class on his first day. I chose to sit in one of the higher rows in the auditorium, with a centric location so I could get a good view of the class and the professor. I'm not sure if it was the excitement of a young freshman or that the presentation by the professor was extradentary, but no doubt that all of the other student around me were impressed as well. But What I recall better than anything else, happened after the professor finished his presentation & just before he dismissed us to our next class. He told us: "Don't believe to what I just told you. Go and check it yourself. think for yourself and develop an independent way of thinking". I left the auditorium somewhat confused.
You probably ask yourself how university adventures of the writer are related to Mexican Football. plain answer: nothing. Unless you watch Andres Guardado interview for BeIN Sports. Guardado, Captain of the Mexican National team, talks about the shortage of Mexican players in the highest levels & in a rare case for Mexican player, openly criticizing the system. you can watch his interview (alongside Diego Lainez) here:
(Video from BeIN Sports USA YouTube channel)
Before we go back to understand the importance of the criticizing act itself, let use the declarations made by Guardado to explain about the structure of the Mexican professional football. The league structure in Mexico is operated the Liga MX (also known as Liga BBVA Bancomer for sponsorship reasons) under the FMF (Mexican Football federation). Liga MX manage the 2 professional football leagues: the Liga MX & Ascenso league (2nd tier). The decision makers for the Liga Mx are the owners of the clubs, as they invest money into the structure of the leagues in addition to their clubs as well. This way of operating has its advantages & disadvantages as well. As the owners invest their money in the league, they have very strong interest that the league will be attractive and therefore, the level of the league is high. In a football passionate country like Mexico, it's imperative that the most important sport will be good and enjoyable to the regular fan. the Mexican league is arguably the richest league in the Americas, and one of the 3 best leagues as well in terms of quality of the game. Large amounts of money attract international players from all over Latin America (in exception of Brazil that has a strong and rich league as well), while give the average fun a good value for his money with a good stadium’s infrastructure and a competitive league.
The other side of the coin is not less important: having the club owners running the show, creates several inconveniences to the game and for the players. Some club owners hold more than 1 club. Grupo Pachuca for example own Tuzos de Pachuca & Club Leon as well. Yes, technically the owners of those 2 clubs are 2 different people. Jesus Martinez own Pachuca while the president of Club Leon is Jesus Martinez Jr. Yes, you read it correctly. It is his beloved child. There are many more examples (Grupo Orlegi own Santos Lagua & Tampico Madero from the 2nd tier), so even if we believe that the players are professional and the clubs not "helping" each other on the playing pitch, there are some major issues that affects the players anyway. The main issue is the transfers of players between clubs. Not always, but sometimes "inside Deals" between to clubs from the same group not benefit the players but the club itself.
Let's take the case of Juan Jose Macias from Club Leon as an example: Macias, 19 years old very talented striker, belong to Club Deportivo Guadalajara, also known as Chivas. Chivas has a sub team in the 2nd tier named Zacatepec where Chivas send young players who grew in the club great academy, so they can get more experience and play time. The reality is that Zacatepec serve also as a tool for an elimination process. Not all the players from the academy would get to play in the Senior team, so only those who really impress in Zacatepec will be considered to play for Chivas. Back to Macias. The youngster has been told that he will be loaned to Zacatepec this season as most of the young players, but then happened something unexpected: Macias refused. Eventually Macias was loaned to Club Leon, where he is proving his quality and show his abilities in the highest tier of Mexican football. but cases like Macias are rare in Mexican Football.
Another case is Osvaldo Alanis. Today, Alanis play in the Spanish 2nd tier side Real Oviedo. Alanis played for Chivas and his contract were to be expired. Alanis wanted to move to Europe and refused to sign a new contract with Chivas. Then the pressure has started: Alanis was banned from the senior team Training and was ordered to practice with the youth team of the club. Alanis went to train with the youngsters and when his contract finished, he moved to Getafe last summer, only to move 2 months afterwards to Oviedo. Really important to mention: Had Alanis were to renew his contract with Chivas, he would probably earn a very nice amount of money. but Alanis wanted to go play in Europe and was willing to sacrifice for that purpose. Those examples bring us back to Guardado interview:
Guardado recognize several issues that affect the Mexican football improvement. Rich league in Mexico means that most of the Mexican players will prefer to stay in familiar culture of Mexico, rather than take the chance and risk outside, sometimes for less money that they can earn in Mexico. For a football player, who's earning potential is 15 years at most, it's a crucial element. Another important element that Guardado is talking about is the European citizenship. Even if a Mexican player is willing to take the risk and try his luck in Europe, many times it's actually the European clubs that are reluctant to use one of their non-European spots for a player with no experience in Europe. Contrary to many Argentinians/Uruguayans/etc… that can get a European passport because a grandmother/Father who is or was born in Europe, vast majority of the Mexican players doesn't have this kind of a connection. A good example is Miguel Layun, who is from a mixed Lebanese & Spanish origin. His Spanish origin got him a Spanish Passport, so regardless his proven ability and good quality as a player, European clubs where more open to sign him. But then, the most interesting point in Guardado's interview is his critics for those who manages the Mexican Football.
One most say, that Guardado's situation is almost unique. Guardado isn't part of the "system" for 12 years now, since he moved from Atlas Guadalajara to Deportivo la Coruña back in 2007. Guardado has earned enough money in his life so he won't need to work not even one more day of his life if he chooses to do so. He also earned enough respect during his career, and his status as the national team captain, basically makes him "Untouchable". Although Guardado expected go back to Atlas Guadalajara to a retirement season in the next couple of years, he will do that as a choice, not as a necessity. This situation allows him to open freely without any fear for his career. Guardado Understand that more Mexican players in Europe, means better quality for the Mexican football. Yes, the league in Mexico is good and Enjoyable, but playing outside makes you a better and more complete player. Better players mean that the chances of success is higher. Both for the players itself and for the National team as well. Although Guardados doesn't said it directly, one can understand between the lines that Guardado Believe in it. Guardado not only talks. He also acts: couple of years ago he was one of the supporters & founders of the Players Union, who's role is to promote the right of the players in front of the club owners. Criticizing directly the club owners in Mexico of thinking about money instead of what best for Mexican football, shows that Guardado not only became Richer and more experienced football player, He also developed an independent point of view. One that will be beneficial for him, but let's hope that also for the Mexican football.
Andres Guardado didn't study with me in the University, but rest assure that my University professor would be proud of him.