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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

‘Reminder’ Ochoa: "You have to support Cocca, it doesn’t matter if he’s Argentinian or Mexican"

Francisco Guillermo Ochoa Magaña (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1985) He is the best goalkeeper in the history of the country and a symbol of Mexican and world football. In January, aged 37, he signed for the Italian Salernitana, with a long-term goal: to be the only player in history to play in six World Cups. Five are enough and 2026 will be in his ‘house’. The ‘Memo’ gives MARCA the first interview in Europe since his arrival in Serie A. He assists us with ‘zoom’ from his residence in Salerno, on the southern coast of Italy.

Ask. I was comfortable in America. Why did you risk this new adventure at 37?

Answer. I have always liked challenges. The change has been brutal. Salerno is a small city and I wanted to go back to Europe. There is a lot of football madness here. They pride themselves a lot on their “Curva Sud” and their unique passion for the club. Here they don’t support Juve, Inter or another big name, only Salernitana. We are close to Naples and there is a lot of passion, you can see it on the street, in the cafeteria, everywhere. It is a very Latin American passion.


Q. How was your arrival?

A. I was in the best team in Mexico, and the only one that could be. It’s no longer there. The World Cup arrived and the club hadn’t finished giving me a proposal to continue and I had to see my future. I couldn’t wait that long. And after the World Cup, I had to explore other options. I grew up watching Serie A and I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t want to stop after Qatar or take a vacation. I don’t like them and haven’t had many in my life. I spoke to the club and agreed. I’ll stay there for six months, and then we’ll see if another year. At the moment, let’s see these six months. It’s a sacrifice because I came here without a wife and three children.

Q. You dared to leave the country in your time. Not many Mexicans do that…

A. That’s true. In Mexico they sometimes ask for too many millions for young people. Mexican football lives in a bubble and European clubs prefer to spend those millions on two or three cheaper guys with European passports. For example, I had to take risks: I left Mexico free and spent almost 10 years without a European passport and working as a goalkeeper, which is more difficult. And even more to be a Mexican goalkeeper, since there was no record. I knocked on doors, I fought and I believed in myself. But yeah, in Mexico you pay well, and it’s hard to hang out with a less big team. Chicharito moved from Chivas to United but that’s not always the case. If Almería loves you, for example, it’s more difficult to leave Mexico because the pay is good there, sometimes double or triple. This complicates the youth of our country.

Q. Did you leave tired of the Mexican football environment?

A. A little. When you’re a public figure and you’re successful, people recognize you on the street. Mexican soccer is very passionate, there are 10 sports radio stations daily; there are 10 TV programs a day… and I’ve played for América, for the national team… It’s getting difficult to get out. In Italy my life has changed in everything. Everything here is less aggressive than in Mexico, and for me it’s easier to go out for a coffee, eat or go to the supermarket. Gain in quality of life by staying outside Mexico.

P. Aguirre, Hugo… they always underline it: the Mexican tries to ‘sink’ those who triumph abroad. Encounter?

R. [Risas]. If they say so… Yes, many times in Mexico things are valued in a particular way. There are more good guys than bad guys, it’s true. On the street they love me a lot. Mexican loves me. But if we talk about the environment, out of jealousy, envy or something else, Mexicans are appreciated more outside than inside. As a society we haven’t been able to get over it and we haven’t been able to take that step as a country. I think the way to get over it is to talk about it. In other countries I notice that they take great care and value their own, they sell native products very well. And not in Mexico. Sometimes the simplest thing in my country is to shoot ourselves.

Q. Do you notice a difference between Mexican and European journalism?

A. Yes, of course. You just have to watch a match broadcast. The serious and professional part that is handled in Spain or Italy may not be the same in Mexico. Here he focuses more on the pure game, on the player; In Mexico, to attract an audience, to get a rating due to the competition that exists, they try to reach the Mexican with other more personal topics, which are outside of football. Everything was very distorted.

Q. You have played 19 finals between bottom and absolute… and you have 700 club matches. How does it sound?

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