PASADENA, Calif – The world has been engulfed in the whirlwind that has seen Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez rise from local star at Chivas Guadalajara to global prominence with Manchester United and Mexico in a matter of months.
Yet, almost two years ago, Hernandez almost made a decision that could have cost him everything.
Depressed at the fact that he couldn’t break into the Chivas first team, Hernandez seriously considered leaving the sport all together and going to college.
Born into a family of soccer players, Hernandez wanted to live up to his father and grandfather’s reputations and being stuck in Chivas reserves was a blow to his confidence.
"I wasn't playing the minutes that I wanted to at the time and the coach wasn't playing me. I don't know why that was, but I was frustrated,” Hernandez said after signing with Manchester United last summer. "My confidence started to go down and I asked my father and my family whether I was still right to play football.”
Luckily for Mexico and soccer, Hernandez remained persistent.
He would work his way into the Chivas first team and lead the team in scoring, catching the eye of Manchester United’s scouts. He would sign with the club in a reported 10 million pounds. The rest is history.
Reflecting on that turbulent time that almost saw him out of soccer all together, Hernandez admitted yesterday that his dark period of life is well behind him as he prepares for today’s Gold Cup final against Mexico’s biggest rival, the United States.
“As I like to say, the past is the past,” said Hernandez. “I had a very different mind[set] then,”
Almost Gave It All Away | Chicharito had a rough beginning at Chivas
Prior to his inclusion to the Mexican national team, it appeared as if El Tri’s prospects were falling behind the U.S. as CONCACAF’s leading team. The team barely qualified for the 2010 World Cup.
Mexico had sent many of its stars to Europe with mixed results. The team lacked an identity moving forward on offense. The fans wanted to see the likes of Carlos Vela and Giovanni Dos Santos succeed in Europe, but still to this date neither could replicate their successes on the national team. Hernandez’s inclusion to the team changed everything.
From his first World Cup appearance last year as a substitute against South Africa in a group stage match, he injected life into a team that had been low on confidence for months. It is safe to say that as Hernandez improved, so did Mexico.
The fans of El Tri , who were almost disenchanted with the team only three years ago when Sven Goran Erickson surprisingly took over as manager for a brief stint, have been reinvigorated with the hope created by the Manchester United forward.
Almost all of the team’s Gold Cup matches have been sellouts, except for its game in Charlotte which drew 46,012 fans. That is almost double the number of the average attendance domestic national team side during the group stages, as the U.S. drew 25,310 fans per game.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Hernandez acknowledging the support Mexico has received throughout the tournament. “We know that here in the United States, we have a lot of Mexican people and a lot of Mexican fans so all we can do is say thank you to all of the support that they give us.
While the Mexican national team has always had an advantage in selling tickets in America, their rise to must see entertainment is partially due to Hernandez’s global appeal.
In only 12 months, he has already become one of soccer’s top five marketable personalities along the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres. Still, he has handled everything in a humble manner.
Through his hard working ethic and words, it is clear that he realizes as quick as his ascension to greatness has been, he could easily find his way back to irrelevance if he doesn’t have the right attitude.
“I’m only one person, I am not a hero or an idol that some people say I am,” said Hernandez. “I’m just a human being and I am playing soccer. I’m just out here trying to do the best for my team.”
Alex Labidou is the Deputy Editor of Goal.com USA. Agree or disagree with the story above? Give him a shout @sportslab on Twitter.
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