The tournament has begun for the Liga MX, one of the most stable and affluent leagues in Latin America. And with it, the return of the soccer so longed for over the holiday season.
The championship begins shrouded in the controversy that this is the tournament with the most foreign players in the history of Mexican football. There will be 137 players not born in Mexico; 82 are registered as foreign nationals, 41 as naturalized, and 14 with dual nationality.
These players should supposedly play much better than the locals, which would give rise to better play in the eyes of the fans and fill the clubs’ stadiums. Some have exceeded these expectations, becoming their teams’ stars, but the majority have not. The draw of a league as economically powerful as Mexico’s is strong for Latin American players, as is the exposure of this tournament as a stepping stone to the European leagues.
The problem is the lack of space this creates. Some teams have strong development programs, and their youth teams’ solid results attest to this, but the number of foreigners in the league robs these young stars of the chance to debut with a top tier team at a young age and earn their professional stripes.
At the same time, the tournament’s officiating is an area where criticism has intensified, with accusations of referees’ poor decisions influencing the outcome of games. Basically, it is a young generation drawing complaints of inadequate training.
The league’s economic solidity is one of the features highlighting the leadership of several teams’ management. But there are also stigmas, such as the unusual common ownership of multiple teams that stirs doubts about fairness when two teams under the same owner face off.
It remains to be seen if aberrations such as this multiple ownership and “gentlemen’s agreements” between team owners, which are usually not in the players’ interest, are necessary for the league’s success.
In any case, th is year’s attraction is on display, from the fascination with the delicate situation of Chivas, to whether the Águilas will repeat as champions, or if the frustration of Puma and Cruz Azul fans will come to an end. The ball is now in play, giving life to the great passion that is soccer