“There’s just a lack of respect,” says Omar Gonzalez over audio of Trump’s 2015 campaign announcement speech describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” “I would tell people to come visit Mexico any chance you get. And you can make your decision for yourself—and not listen to this fake news,” Gonzalez adds in the documentary, which explores the players’ professional pursuits across the border.
Gonzalez currently plays for C.F. Pachuca—a team in Mexico’s top-ranking Liga MX—and was on the U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2014 World Cup. Like many of the athletes featured in the video, Gonzalez grew up in the United States but went to Mexico looking for better playing opportunities. Unlike Gonzalez, who played with the L.A. Galaxy before going to Pachuca, many of those players come to Mexico as amateurs—a decision predicated on Mexico’s stronger and more-economically viable soccer infrastructure.
“Football over there, soccer as [it’s called in the United States], is not a way out of poverty,” says Pachuca’s sporting director Marco Garces. “Here in Mexico, it’s a way out of poverty. That’s why it’s ingrained in the lower echelons and social classes. We bring [American players] in very young because they have no opportunities, it’s like arrested development.”
San Jose native Jonathan Navarro is one of those young men. He originally went to Mexico at age 16 to play with Liga MX club Santos Laguna’s youth academy. But as he explains in the documentary, FIFA rules about recruiting minors from overseas forced him back to San Jose until his 18th birthday. Santos Laguna’s vice president Pepe Riestra says that the regulations create problems for American players with dual Mexican citizenship or Mexican ancestry: “[Navarro] has the talent and he’s Mexican, but he also has U.S. nationality, so what do you think about him? Is he Mexican?”
Mexico soccer veteran and ESPN Deportes commentator Jared Borgetti argues that these players’ dual identities and affiliations underscore a deep connection between the two countries that xenophobic politics ignores. “We will have to reach a middle point and realize that both countries need each other,” he says.
Watch the full 15-minute documentary above.