About 30 miles east of Mexico’s border city of Tijuana sits Tecate, a small city of fewer than 70,000 people. If the name rings any bells, it’s probably because of the city’s eponymous, hipster-beloved beer. But it may not be long before the world associates Tecate with something else: Mexico’s most promising fútbol player.
Jesús “Tecatito” Corona made his professional soccer debut in Monterrey five years ago, at the age of 17. Back then, he was simply Jesús Corona – but his God-given name didn’t last for long. First of all, there was already a soccer-playing Jesús Corona beloved by the Mexican public: Cruz Azul’s World Cup-bound goalkeeper. Second of all, and perhaps more importantly, Monterrey is owned by Cervecería Cuahtemoc, which owns Tecate beer – Corona beer’s biggest national competitor.
And so, the young Corona was rebautizado as “Tecatito” – a player who has since become the one to watch in Mexico’s Copa América efforts. But he wasn’t always Mexico’s next big thing.
On Manuel Vucetich’s Monterrey team, el Tecatito showed flashes of great soccer, but he didn’t really shine until the 2012 Club World Cup, where he scored a goal in the first game and had Chelsea’s defenders going crazy during the semifinals. This, along with his performance at the 2013 under-20 World Cup, was enough to spark the interest of Dutch club Twente.
But as often happens with young talent in Mexico, leaving the team for a new opportunity was more difficult than anticipated. Monterrey officials were unwilling to negotiate, despite Tecatito’s wishes to make a move to Dutch soccer. Corona’s rescission clause was set at $5 million dollars – and while it maybe common for European teams to pay such an amount for an Argentinean, Brazilian, or Uruguayan young player, that price was unheard of for a Mexican player.
Adding an additional hurdle was the fact that Monterrey’s head coach aired his irritation with the matter publicly.
“This goes against all the team’s efforts with its youth academies; we spend four years [training young players], just so that someone can swoop in, observe them for a little bit, and steal them away,” he complained. “It’s a problem and FIFA should regulate this issue, as should the Mexican Federation.”
The FEMEXFUT (Mexican Football Federation) has a long tradition of ignoring players’ rights, even the ones already established by FIFA (which is not particularly respectful of its own rules). The infamous – and informal – Pacto de Caballeros (Gentlemens’ Pact), establishes that a player cannot negotiate with another team even if his current contract has already ended. Spanish team Deportivo A Coruña’s president César Lendoiro once came to Mexico’s “draft” to try to negotiate the sale of the rights to Mexican forward Omar Bravo. To his surprise, despite owning 100% of Bravo’s card, he had to work with Chivas (the team Bravo left after his contract ended), when negotiating with other teams.
“What happens in Mexico is something unique in the world. I don’t know if FIFA knows that this is happening in Mexico. In Europe this is unheard of, and could never occur because it goes against current regulations. Here [in Mexico] whoever wants Omar Bravo has to also pay Guadalajara, and this is something I cannot understand, I simply cant,” Lendoiro protested, after he was unable to sell Bravo.
Twente’s interest in Tecatito sparked a power struggle between Corona and Monterrey, who refused to budge in their asking price. Instead, they sent him to the under-20 squad as punishment. The whole thing seemed like it would end with Corona stuck on the Mexican squad, but Twente was firm in their decision to sign Corona, and agreed to pay the rescission clause of $5 million dollars. This left a reluctant Monterrey with no other options but to accept the sale of their young player.
Tecatito’s Twente debut with Twente came on September 29th, 2013 against FC Gronningen. Although the match was already decided in his team’s favor by the time he got on the field, Tecatito’s first minutes in Eredevisie (the Dutch League) couldn’t have gone better. He scored a very fancy goal that put the game at 5-0. But despite his great debut, his season was marred by a series of injuries and bad performances; he only played 14 games that season, and didn’t score again until April 27th.
The beginning of his second season wasn’t very promising either. Apparently, his time in Europe made him pretty homesick for the tacos and tamales of home, and after spending his summer break in Mexico, Corona returned to pre-season training con unos kilos de mas. His coach, very unhappy with Corona’s physique, declared that he wouldn’t be permitted to play in that condition. It took Tecatito a little while to lose the weight, and it wasn’t until the 5th league game that he was allowed to play again. But he did it magnificently, scoring a great goal and an assist in a 2-1 win. After that game, he became a regular starter for the team. His second goal of the season came to Dutch powerhouse Ajax and he proved his talent a few matches later against Graafschap. In that game, he scored two goals; the first, a great bicycle kick, and the second an individual play that broke a defender’s hip.
That night, el Tecatito became Corona.
“I felt like I was letting those who had supported me down, [but] instead of getting annoyed I put all my effort into getting better,” Corona stated in response to his manager’s complaints about his out of shape physique and getting benched for the first four games of the season.
Once again, Corona’s talent grabbed the eyes of many. This time, it was Mexico’s manager el Piojo Herrera, who’d been watching him closely. Herrera called him for two international friendlies against The Netherlands and Belarus. In the game against the Dutch, Corona came in as a second-half sub. With his first touch of the ball, less than one minute after coming into the game, he made a great individual play that left him in a position to assist Carlos Vela, who scored a magnificent goal that put Mexico in the lead.
That night Corona became a Seleccionado Nacional.
Now it’s his turn to capitalize on his talent, something he’ll have an opportunity to do this summer.
Jesús “el Tecatito” Corona is the only player that will be playing both the Gold Cup and Copa América.
El Piojo Herrera has called Corona the best player Mexico has, so he has to play in both tournaments.
Amid a national team focused on older players like Chicharito Hernandez, Carlos Vela, and Giovanni Hernandez, it seems that a youngster named after a man who turned water into wine, who shares a surname with Mexico’s most famous beer, and whose nickname comes from an up-and-coming cerveza, will lead Mexico’s future generation.
He might have little power over how people refer to him, but he has all the say in how he is and will be seen.
Call him Jesús.
Whatever you like.
But definitely follow this player.