We saw him succeed and become the star of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But Guillermo Ochoa had to work really hard to get and stay at “America”, one of the most popular teams in Mexico. Then he struggled to become an international player, and he had to spend two World Cups on the bench before he became the starting goalkeeper for the Mexican team. Now, offers from the great European teams are raining. His performance is engraved in the history of the World Cups as well as in the memories of those who saw him playing in Brazil 2014.
Translation by Eva Reinoso Tejada
The match at Fortaleza on June 17th was not just another game. The Mexican team faced Brazil, who is considered by many the favorite to win the World Cup. Mexico looked solid in their defense; so much so, that the game ended with no goals. Even better, Guillermo Ochoa, the Mexican goalkeeper was named best player of the game. With his performance, Ochoa not only secured a good result for Mexico, but he also broke records and entered his name in World Cup history. This young man, born in Guadalajara, worked really hard to get there.
Becoming a professional player
Ochoa was a precocious goalie. When he was 19 years old, Leo Beenhakker, Dutch trainer for “las Aguilas del America”, gave him the opportunity to be the starting goalie for the richest sports club in Mexico. Ochoa was trained in the youth program for America and when Beenhakker saw him playing, he took him to the first division. He debuted during a game against Monterrey where America won. Ochoa showed great confidence by the goal and the team didn’t hesitate to leave him there permanently when Adolfo Rios, formerly in that position, was injured.
Sports commentator Jesus Bracamonte remembers how “that young man surprised everyone from the beginning for his abilities and self-control.” But not everyone agreed. When the new coach, Oscar Ruggeri, came to America, he brought a goalie he trusted. Ochoa was replaced by Sebastian Saja, who had previously played with the Argentinean national team. Ruggeri preferred the experience over the momentum the young gem had. Ochoa was patient and continued to learn. Shortly after, a new coach for America, Mario Carrillo, made Ochoa the starting goalie again. That year, in 2005, America became the champions of the Mexican league.
Becoming an international player
Ochoa remained as the goalkeeper for America until 2011. At that time, he began to consider an offer from Paris Saint Germain to play in France at one of the best European leagues. But, on an afternoon in June 2011, he was informed of a positive result on a doping testing. A second test months later, showed that the Clembuterol found on his body came from the meat that he, and other 5 players of “El Tri”, had eaten. This confusion prevented him from obtaining a contract in Europe, since the team withdrew the offer.
Ochoa moved to France, but playing for a small team, Ajaccio, from the island of Corcega. He was making four times less money than what he got paid at America. “Many things got complicated, but I never folded my arms, I kept working and improving,” said Ochoa on an interview with Cancha, a magazine in Mexico. Facing elite forwards every week while he was the goalie for the Ajaccio, gave him a lot of experience. “Now I feel calm as a goalie, and I try to reflect that on the field, showing serenity and confidence on my moves,” said Ochoa.
Becoming the starting goalkeeper for “El Tri” (Mexican national team)
After Mexico made it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Ochoa made it clear he wanted to be the starting goalie for the team. He had accumulated more international experience and he could also brag to be the first and only Mexican goalie playing in the European leagues. But it wasn’t easy for him this time either. Many of the fans and experts wanted to see Jesus Corona, from Cruz Azul, to be the keeper. Also, ex-goalie Martin Zúñiga advised Miguel Herrera, Mexican coach, to leave Ochoa out. Herrera watched closely the final weeks before the World Cup and noticed a serene Ochoa who was ready for the challenge, and that is what he was looking for.
The announcement came just five days before the beginning of the World Cup. Ochoa relived his experience from 2010. “I played all the games before the Cup with Javier Aguirre, and when the Cup came I thought I would be the starting keeper. I didn’t expect to be a substitute. I still don’t know the reasons why Aguirre left me on the bench.” Ochoa, as a goalie, found inspiration on his falls and decided to get up and keep going. “It wasn’t easy to be a part of the group (El Tri), or play. No one has given me anything, everything has been a product of my perseverance,” concluded Ochoa.
His “other” loves
Karla, his girlfriend, and Lucciana, his daughter, live with him in France and they are his support and best fans. They were with him in Brazil. Karla is a fashion designer. (Photos Courtesy of Twitter @yosoy8a)
At the beginning, I didn’t think I could stop it, but then I figured I could slap it out.”
Comment made by Ochoa regarding one of the goal attempts by Neymar, from the Brazilian team.