Countdown to Columbus: Non Native Players Cause Uproar in Mexico
Sven Goran Eriksson has learned the lessons of Ricardo LaVolpe the hard way. If you use non Mexican born players even in winning, you will be a loser. The Mexican Football press, notoriously xenophobic and insular attacked former national team manager Lavolpe, an Argentine for using Guille Franco and Zinha in the lead up to World Cup 2006.
Lavolpe’s Mexican side had obvious deficiencies which were routinely exposed by the United States among others. In permitting the new Mexican citizens to play a role in the national team program, those shortcomings were masked and Mexico’s National Team as a whole grew more competitive, taking Argentina to the brink in Germany 2006.
But for many including former great player Hugo Sanchez, Lavolpe’s actions were criminal and after his firing, Sanchez lobbied for and received the job of leading the national team. His very first action was to freeze Franco and Zinha out of the player pool.
But Sanchez’s tenure of Mexican manager was rocky. Relying on home grown players other than the American born Edgar Castillo (who was born eligible to be a Mexican citizen) El Tri was rocked by the United States in Sanchez’s first match and never got on track after that. A difficult Gold Cup which saw Mexico lose to Honduras at the Group Stage and then barely hold off an eight man Costa Rican side in the Quarterfinals ended in yet another loss to the U.S.
Losses to Guatemala in a friendly and then again to the Guatemalans in Olympic Qualifying was too much for the FMF which fired the Mexican legend. In his place they hired the failed former Manager of England, Sven Goran Eriksson, whose understanding of Mexican football was minimal.
Initially, Eriksson made some shrewd moves: Bringing legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco back to the national team and recalling Franco for experience sakes. But an over reliance on youngsters Carlos Vela and Gio Dos Santos put Mexico on the brink of elimination from World Cup qualifying at the last stage. As the situation grew more desperate, Eriksson began to call in more and more naturalized players. This created a huge backlash in the Mexican press and even among some player like Jared Borgetti.
The backlash I believe helped cement Jose Francisco Torres’ decision to choose the US over Mexico after having refused a previous call up to the US team. Once Mexico showed interest in Torres under Sven, the press and player backlash against foreign players and “gringos” who might be of Mexican heritage but of American birth was in full swing.
Eriksson has made the Argentinean born, former Manchester City striker, Mathias Vuoso a centerpiece of his attacking setup. Additionally, Guille Franco has assumed a key role in the Mexican attack. The fact that Jared Borgetti, one of Mexico’s all time top scorers has been frozen out of the mix by Erikson has fed the cynicism in the Mexican media.
The bottom line is this: Eriksson has made his bed with the naturalized players, much to the chagrin of many in the Mexican press. By doing this he probably has improved Mexico’s overall talent level but given himself less of leverage to keep his job should El Tri flop early in the final round of qualifying.