Mexican football makes plenty of money, but power struggles at the top make the national team an afterthought
By Martha Guerra, World Cup Nation: Mexico
Despite being a so-called emerging economy, Mexican football is big business. It’s no coincidence that one of the world’s richest men, Carlos Slim, decided to invest in La Liga, the name the Mexican top flight shares with its Spanish equivalent.
The biggest Hispanic TV companies own teams in La Liga, and rule football, which is one of the most important economic areas in the country.
As the millions come and go throughout Mexican football, owners have not yet decided if they want a successful domestic league or a thriving national team. They haven’t worked hard to achieve either.
The fight between Carlos Slim and TV magnates Emilio Azcarraga and Ricardo Salinas rumbles on, making hostages of football and Olympic TV rights.
The current debate is about how many foreigners should come into La Liga, with some suggesting that playing non-natives leads to under-investment in local youth players.
Mexico imports inexpensive foreign players, halting the progress of homegrown talent, and never investing enough to produce good ones, but a few hungry kids break tend to break through on their own.
The English Premier League features around 70 per cent overseas players, Serie A use 56 per cent and the La Liga (Spain) only 40 per cent. The results are obvious. Spain have a spectacular international team, England has the best league but a not a world champion team.
Conversely, Argentina and Brazil develop players to export, and can count on having top quality players based around the world to populate their World Cup squads.
Mexico do have good players including Chicharito, despite the fact that he lives on a bench at Manchester United, but another problem is the attitude of key players like Carlos Vela, who is scoring goals in Spain but never far away from controversy.
But if Mexico wants to achieve anything in Brazil, Miguel Herrera needs freedom to pick players and make them play in his system, away from the interest of club owners.
That’s a long way from reality. As it stands Mexico will stay the same. Rich, but a low standard, with owners putting their interests above results of the national side.