29 October ~ Mexican striker Javier Hernandez stole the Monday morning headlines following his match-winning brace for Manchester Utd against Stoke City but things aren’t so rosy back at his old club Guadalajara Chivas. Sunday’s “clasico of the clasicos” against bitter capital city rivals America ended 0-0, the second half of which was at times exasperating to watch. The clash pits the all-Mexican, provincial “people’s club” from second city Guadalajara against Mexico City’s America, whose name alone alludes to intentions of grandeur.

America spend big on players, flaunt their wealth and their fans are proud of it. Chivas, thanks to an era of domination called the Campeonisimo in the late 1950s and 60s, lead America 11 to ten in the overall title count but both clubs currently find themselves in a slump.

After 90 minutes, boos rang out with he game only serving to highlight the clubs' distance from Mexico’s new elite: Monterrey, Cruz Azul, Toluca and Santos Laguna. Of the two giants, it’s Chivas who are very much in flux. Fans are almost unanimously against club owner Jorge Vergara, who bought the club in 2002 and said he would make it into one of the biggest in the world. “On paper the project is fine but in practice it’s not that easy,” says Chivas fan Luis from Mexico City before Sunday’s game. “Where’s the money going to come from?”

Chivas fans dancing, singing and drinking in a Mexico City park befaore making their way to the Azteca hid what is a real concern for the future of the club among them. “I’ll tell you, none of us likes Vergara,” says Carlos of Guadalajara’s Legion 1908 fan group. “You go round the park and ask people what they think of him.”

A major problem for Chivas fans in Guadalajara this year has been the new Omnilife tadium. “It’s an amazing stadium, incredible, but the prices are too high and we can’t get there easily,” says Jorge, who was one of those to make the trip from Guadalajara to Mexico City on Sunday. The Estadio Omnilife is like a modern European stadium; set on the edge of the city, it's genuinely impressive. The problem is that Mexicans can’t pay the ticket prices plus transport to the stadium and food and drink inside. In comparison to the vast majority of Mexican grounds, there are no independent vendors outside, meaning Vergara has a monopoly on food, booze and merchandise.

Vergara insists the stadium has been a success and blames the media for causing the disconten, but he would be better looking at the stark facts. There were swathes of empty seats around the ground when Chivas took on local rivals Atlas a couple of weeks ago and when Pumas from Mexico City came to town it was the same. At the old Estadio Jalisco it was rare if one of the above games didn’t sell out, regardless of the circumstances of the team.

The stadium isn’t the only sign of unrest within Chivas, however. “This year I only brought one bus to the clasico,” says Luis Felipe Martinez, organiser of the Legion 1908 in Guadalajara. “I usually bring three.” Outside the Azteca on Sunday another supporters’ club was protesting a potential change to the club badge. As in all sports, a successful team brings fans around and while Chivas are performing like they did on Sunday, protest is bound is reign.

Perhaps what is required in the long term is that the club relax their rules on not allowing foreign players. Chivas have struggled in recent years and now rely almost exclusively on talent coming up through the youth team. The “sacred herd” has won just three titles since the Campeonisimo era ended in the 1960s. Toluca, on the other hand, have won seven titles since 1997.

The template for success in the Mexican league is to have a base of seven or eight locals complemented with a few foreigners. An additional problem for Chivas’s “Mexicans only” stance is that it is combined with a policy of selling players that are successful. “Chicharito” Hernandez played exceptionally well for only one year with Chivas before being whisked off, while 19-year-old midfield starlet Jorge Enriquez is being tipped to move in the same direction in the near future.

If Chivas’s best players are sold on, the team naturally loses quality and it becomes difficult to win trophies, the most surefire way of getting supporters back into the stadium. Most worryingly of all, Chivas fans are already fantasising about the potential end-of-career return of the already mythical Chicharito. With his goals last Sunday, the wait could seem like an eternity. Tom Marshall

Comments (3)
Comment by jb5000 2010-10-29 15:49:39

Hideously racist club not successful, shame.

Comment by diabloinglés 2010-10-30 10:28:12

Not a Chivas fan but not sure I agree with all of this.

Firstly, the titles won since the 'torneos cortos' began isn't quite as painted.
There have been 10 different winners of the league since the winter 1996 torneo.
Of these Chivas have won twice, comparing favourably with 'Mexico's new elite' - Santos 3 times, Monterrey twice, Cruz Azul once.
It is as good as America's two wins.
Pachuca have 4 and Pumas 3.
Toluca are the team of the torneos cortos with six wins since summer 1999.
The thing to note here is that Toluca are the team to compare yourself to in Mexican football post 1996.
America are not the team they claim to be and despite being Chivas bitter rivals, they do not to be seen as an indicator of the leve of Mexican football in 21st century.

Why would Chivas think about giving up their 'Mexicans only' policy?
It hasn't hindered them at all if you look at these figures, it's kept them moreorless on par with the rest and better than most.

'The template for success in the Mexican league is to have a base of seven or eight locals complimented with a few foreigners'.
This has worked for Toluca - and Pachuca and for Monterrey and Pumas to an extent - but it hasn't worked for the other approx 20 teams who've failed to win pretty much anything at all in nearly 20 years.
Indeed, America does just buy big with little to show for it... except for a striker who can't play because he got shot after getting mixed up with the local narcos and an ex-Toluca winger who can't cut it anymore.
Paying a fortune for a South American centre forward is not always going to yield results.
Having said that though, Bofo and Omar Bravo as your attacking options certainly won't!

Chivas just keep churning out Mexican players - of varying degrees of talent.
Ex-Chivas who do / did play abroad:
Chicharito, Carlos Salcido, Paco Palencia, Jared Borghetti, Omar Bravo, Maza Rodriguez, Manuel Vidrio, Chepo De La Torre (now national coach), Carlos Vela, Javier Aguirre (ex national coach), Claudio Suarez....
Ex- Chivas who have go on to do well in Mexico:
Osvaldo Sanchez, Alfredo Talavera, Bofo, Gonzalo Pineda, Ramon Morales, Israel Lopez, Benjamin Galindo, Fernando Quirate....
Both lists could go on, but the point is the 'Mexican only' policy has not been a hinderance.

Chivas have just been losing finalists in Copa Libertadores.
They were rubbish in the final, but pretty good until then.
Only one other Mexican club has gone this far (Cruz Azul in 2001 using a borrowed centre forward - Toluca's legendary Jose Cardozo).
Not bad for a suffering team struggling to get by on homegrown talent?

Two things that I would agree with:
The Omnilife Stadium could well turn out to be a white elephant. Never full, players don't like the pitch.
Nobody likes Vergara. A lot mickey is taken out of the fact that the beginning of his name is 'Verga' - Mexican slang for 'cock' or 'dick'.

Comment by Rojinegro 2010-10-31 05:50:09

I can't pass up the chance to piss on my club's most hated rival. Hah. Chivas' stadium is a reflection of their new identity which is a whole lot of marketing and not a lot of actual passion. It's always been that Chivas fans abandon the team in times of want. It is not true that the Estadio Jalisco was always full for Chivas, certain games yes, i.e. against Atlas or America.

The ultimate insult was that the final of the fucking libertadores didn't see out their stadium in one of the inaugural games. Amazing. Now a lot has been made of the transportation problems but come on. It's the final of the continent's most important cup match. A few hours in traffic should be worth it.

One thing that needs to be said though is that Vergara has been able to harness Chivas' nationwide (both US and Mexico) appeal into an effective scouting network. Most if not all their players are produced inhouse and the national team has much to thank them for, most notably Chicharito. However, the kid is a son of a famous player which always helps in "discovering" players but anyway, his talent is undeniable.

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