In January, Mexican soccer player Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had the best year of his life. He played just the 28th match of his professional career and won the league championship. He also netted 24 goals in a historic season for Manchester United, completing a job that saw him come to the Premier League from Real Madrid. Then, in the last game of the season, he signed a contract extension with the team that currently owns him, Manchester United.
Chicharito is the a real real superstar for Mexico. Now, he is just a very popular billionaire, buying memberships to out-of-the-way events. But the person he has dominated — Mexican soccer players — is still in a trade union, after a two-day strike by players brought to an end on Tuesday. In an interview with El Universal this week, Chicharito acknowledged that he can “understand” that his coworkers do not want to give up their salaries (or not give them up, that is). “I have four boys,” he said. “The best job for them is to be professionals and to dedicate themselves to the national team.”
But Chicharito’s sentiment might have been a little different if he had seen what was happening on his own team during the same period. Mexican football is more globalized than ever. As far back as 2005, Adidas sponsored Mexican professional football. For eight years now, a transnational group known as Internacional Uruguayanos de Football (IUB), has teamed up with U.S. players to promote the sport in its own right. One of its loudest banners featured a photograph of “Chicharito” with his tongue wagging and his shirt lifted up, fans of Copa America, and members of the Uruguayan national team standing behind him.
A simple photo of Claudio Bravo, with his shirt just lifted up, sitting alone in a corner. That picture was on U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook page.
Just days ago, IUB sponsored the March 4 Copa America opening ceremony in Mexico City. IUB is Brazilian-owned, so they said their obligation was to sponsor a tournament, just like their home country.
The players from El Tri and other countries across the Caribbean or Latin America aren’t allowed to strike. But they have been organizing regularly, with multiple votes in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Panama, among other countries. Without their collective labor action, the team can negotiate new contracts with Manchester United or Adidas that might not be economically profitable. Yet these players are patriots with their own ideas of what can be done — something that Chicharito still might not be interested in.