So it’s come to this. Once upon a time, the Mexico jersey was considered sacred to players and fans alike. Now at least some Mexican stars in Europe seem to find it perfectly reasonable to choose club football over El Tri.
Jonathan Dos Santos’ decision to turn down the Olympic team in order to focus his summer on club football was just as disappointing as Carlos Vela’s identical stance. Both players were lining themselves up for important roles with the national team, not just on the Olympic squad, but on the full team levels. Now word is both will be banished from the national team through the 2014 World Cup.
Come what may, it’s a troubling turn of events for the players and their country. But it’s particularly disappointing when young players refuse to put on the green shirt for something as important as a once-in-a-lifetime Olympic opportunity.
With Vela and Dos Santos, Mexico would be a giant step closer to medaling in London. Without them, El Tri could end up as an also ran.
That may seem like exaggeration, but these two are important cogs in a team that’s just a few key players away from being one of the favorites for the Gold. There are replacements at Dos Santos’ holding mid spot, to be sure, but his absence may have forced the inclusion of overage Carlos Salcido instead of a much-needed center back, something that could cost El Tri big-time in England.
The same could be said for Vela, whose presence would have eliminated the need for overage Oribe Peralta and opened up yet another veteran slot to sure up the weak link of the team - the back line.
Imagine this Mexico squad with the junior Dos Santos and Vela, plus Maza Rodriguez and Hector Moreno in the middle of defense. That could have been a reality with the Spain-based duo on board for the trip.
Instead, things are what they are with this Olympic team. Mexico is a dynamic, extremely skilled group with the offensive firepower to beat anyone in London. But the weakness at the back is likely to cost them at some point on the road to the medal round, and if it does, fans will be left to ask, “what if?”
Much of that will be down to Vela and Dos Santos, whose choices to not make time for the Olympic team are, to be quite frank, bewildering.
Yes, both have club situations to resolve. Vela hopes to make his name either back at Real Sociedad or elsewhere. Dos Santos is anxious to break into Barcelona’s first team this summer. Playing in the Olympics might set those goals back slightly and temporarily.
On purely club-based pretenses, then, and despite plenty of argumentation to the contrary, these decisions don’t necessarily make much sense. Throw in throwing out the chance to represent your country in the most important sporting event in the world, and this type of behavior borders on indefensible.
Perhaps it’s harsh to permanently alienate Vela and Dos Santos from El Tri for these stunts, but the federation directors should think twice before calling them back in. Having refused the call when the country needs them, it will be only fair down the road to remember the Olympics when picking between a loyal soldier and a player who decides to put himself above his country, with whatever pretense.