“America’s Soccer Migrants” Follows Mexican-American Soccer Stars Returning to their Roots in Mexico

Lead Photo: Photo: Los Angeles Times
Photo: Los Angeles Times
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As Donald Trump’s administration continues to tighten immigration policies, the border between Mexico and the United States becomes more and more blurred. While the proposed border wall would theoretically curb immigration into the United States, a sector of Mexican-American soccer players are crossing over the other way, into Mexico, in search of a better career on the field. That migration into Mexico is the setting for The Guardian‘s new documentary “America’s Soccer Migrants.”

The 15-minute documentary follows three dual citizen players currently plying their trade in Mexico: C.F. Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez, Santos Laguna’s Jonathan Navarro, and Chivas de Guadalajara’s Alex Zendejas. All of them were at one point US-based players of Mexican descent, but have now, for varying reasons, moved to Mexico.

Gonzalez moved across the border last year after a long stint at the LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer, in search of more money to support his growing family. Navarro had a rockier road to his current spot on Santos Laguna, as he was forced to sit out for two years, until he turned 18. Zendejas, on the other hand, had to relinquish his United States soccer affiliation so as to be allowed to play for Chivas, a club that historically has only fielded Mexican players. All three of the highlighted players in the documentary moved to Mexico because they believed that the more-established soccer culture and infrastructure could give them a better opportunity to succeed.

Not that it’s been all smooth sailing crossing the border in search of better fútbol. Navarro’s story in particular raises an issue that is common for dual-citizenship players: how to navigate FIFA regulations, specifically the one restricting the movement of minors to new countries. Given high-profile punishments in recent years (both Barcelona and Real Madrid have received transfer bans for violating the FIFA law), clubs are more hesitant to bring over young players, even if they are Mexican citizens to begin with.

Regardless of how these players do arrive in the Mexican league, one thing is clear: more and more players are opening their eyes to the opportunities lying in wait south of the border. With tensions rising between the United States and Mexico, this type of move might become more popular, as players search for more playing time, more money, and more stability in Liga MX.