Herculez Gomez may regret all the media attention that his comments about Mexican labor practices received, but the American star should be commended for speaking up about it.It was a strange 24 hours covering the mini-firestorm that engulfed Santos Laguna striker Herculez Gomez and his comments regarding the Mexican league's labor practices.
Gomez recalled a sour chapter in his career in which he was abruptly introduced to the Gentlemen's Pact, a highly illegal (at least by FIFA standards, anyway) agreement that deprives players of anything resembling free agency in Mexico, basically binding them to the whims of their owners even when their contracts have expired.
Granted, as Herc himself pointed out, the interview in question took place five months ago, a substantial detail that took the American striker aback. Dated or not, or his comments still ring true today, and the media was not wrong or "unjust" -- Gomez's word -- to report on it.
The Mexican First Division may have gotten a brand new logo, cup tournament and even name, but essentially, it still carries with the same problems that the "old" league did. Justice on the pitch is still an issue, as well as off it.
League President Decio de Maria was quick to point out goal-line technology would not be implemented any time soon, for instance, and players would still have to answer to a Disciplinary Committee, which in the past has doled out ridiculous and uneven penalties for various offenses.
Then there's the problem with ownership. TV Azteca, the country's second-largest television network, owns two teams. Pachuca owner Jesus Martinez's group bought Leon and helped it earn promotion to the Liga MX, famously stating that conflict of interest would not be a problem, as he owns Pachuca while Leon is his 27-year-old son's property.
Televisa, Latin America's TV behemoth, reportedly sold off second club San Luis (it also owns giant América) earlier this year, though doubts remain as to the real situation behind the club. Labor rights and improper treatment of players only heightens those big issues and adds to the mess.
Clearly, situations like the one Herculez Gomez had to endure in Puebla are not unique. Though appalling, perhaps what's worse is the lack of unity amongst players to combat such an unjust system. Of those who have fought the system, only very few have been able to defeat the behemoth and have their rights respected.
Striker and former national team player Omar Bravo refused to re-sign with Chivas in order to facilitate his free transfer to Deportivo La Coruña. Former Tri co-captain Gerardo Torrado defied Pumas in order to play abroad in Spain. Ditto Aaron Galindo with Cruz Azul, which created a drawn-out dispute due to the Mexican club not agreeing to release his rights, forcing Galindo to sit for several months.
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We can surmise that only those players with the quality to play abroad truly have the power to say no to the powers that be. Others -- like Herculez Gomez, for instance -- who might have options to move outside of Mexico may be dissuaded by the fact that Liga MX clubs pay very well, possibly offering the best salaries on average in the entire continent.
Which brings us full circle to the controversy surrounding Gomez's statements this week. Whereas five months ago Herc would have to answer the old Mexican Primera and its murky, undefined disciplinary system for his comments, now a whole new system rules over the Liga MX, even going so far as to introduce a Code of Ethics that, while not completely clear, sounds a little menacing and Hays code-esque.
Obviously, Gomez has moved on from his episode in Puebla, eventually landing a great gig with Santos Laguna that has seen him hoist the league championship trophy and play in a CONCACAF Champions League final. And yet, though that chapter of his career is closed, nobody can say with certainty he won't be faced with a similar situation in the future.
Gomez felt singled out by the media or maybe a little repentant of what he said five months ago, but it will be never be unjust for players, media and fans to raise their collective voice towards practices that harm soccer as a whole.
Time and time again, what's been proven to be unjust in Mexican soccer is the status quo.