Guadalajara clásico divided the Méndez Olague family
For former Atlas defender Mario Méndez, the Clásico Tapatío has always been a big occasion in his family.
For former Atlas defender Mario Méndez, the Clásico Tapatío - the Guadalajara derby is much more than just a rivalry between local teams. He recalls how this fixture divided the heart of his family: “It can be traced back to the days of my uncle Juan Manuel Olague, who made his debut for Chivas at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s. The older members of my family always supported the rojiblancos, while my cousins, my brother and myself support Atlas, so there is an interesting rivalry, we all place bets, with each one always supporting their team,” he said.
Méndez, who emerged from Atlas’ youth academy during Ricardo Lavolpe’s reign at the end of the 90s and start of the new millennium, always lived the clásico to the fullest. “The rivalry is very strong and the result is so important for both sides. Losing or winning would determine the mockery or pride you may have in the days before and after the game,” he said.
What does this match between Atlas vs Chivas represent? For some, it resembles the clásico nacional?
First of all, many people say that it is the oldest clásico. While it’s true that it’s a local rivalry, it is also a day-to-day rivalry, because whoever loses has to put up with all of the banter until the next game. It’s something that I have experience since I was a child, because most people followed Chivas and when Atlas won, the taunting would begin. I also had to endure it later on as a professional player. I lived through those games intensely when I joined Atlas and as a fan when I was just six years old.
People are really up for those games and that’s what makes it special, even though in recent years the attendance has been lower.
Were you always an Atlas fan or did you support Chivas first?
With me it is a funny story, because one of my mother’s brothers, the eldest one, my uncle Juan Manuel Olague made his debut with Chivas - he played in the 70s and won the league and Cup with them. That’s why in my family, the older generation are Chivas fans and the younger generation, the ones who saw me play in Atlas, are rojiblancos. Later on, my uncle played for Atlas and when I began to get interested in soccer, I I wanted to be like him. I looked up to him and tried to be like him, when he was playing for Atlas. When I was taken to my first game, I liked the colours of the kit and style of play, so I, together with some of my cousins, became Atlas fans. The older members of the family are all Chivas fans, so the issue is divided in our family.
Does your family’s rivalry ever get out of hand?
When your team loses, you have to put up with all of the jokes in the family. That’s how it has always been despite the fact that my uncle played for Atlas in the 70s. He liked being with his football friends and many of his friends were Chivas fans, so the rivalry is only sporting. When you lose you expect the taunting to start.
Would you have played for Chivas if they had proposed it to you?
I have mentioned it in the past, but my idea was always to play for Atlas first - that was my dream since I was in the youth team. But the issue of playing for another team never came up because you never know where fate will take you. I know that the rivalry between the two clubs exists, but the best thing is to live day by day - that was always the case during my career. I know about the rivalry and identity but who knows, tomorrow you could end up playing for the other team. A lot of it is down to economic and professional stability. If they suddenly decide they want to sign you and it suits all parties, then go ahead. But everyone is different - there are cases of Chivas players who played for América and others who were at Atlas and then in Chivas or vice versa, but I couldn’t say that I would never go to this team or that team.
Now I’m a former soccer player - I’m a coach who wants to work so it’s not for me to say that; it’s up to the people who are playing. It’s happened with the guy who who had painted his room with the Atlas shield and then ended up playing for Chivas and a photo came out. These are situations for current players to assess rather than people like me who stopped playing a long time ago.
Huesos Reyes says that he would rather retire than play for Chivas, but everyone has their point of view?
You have to respect his opinion - everyone can talk about situations like this, but as a footballer when you stop receiving a certain amount of money and you live from day to day... That’s why I say that it is respectable that he says he would rather retire. In the end, I think players should be more concerned about extending their career for as long as possible, and thinking about financial stability. Talking about retiring is complicated because you get used to receiving money every month and in these difficult times, you are fortunate to have a job
Which Chivas players did you find difficult to mark?
Well, we had to play against the super Chivas. Not so long ago I was watching some videos from that time and was surprised at how good those games were. There were players like [Alberto] Coyote, “El Cabrito”, Ramón Ramírez, then players like [Ricardo] Peláez, Luis García, Claudio Suárez, Tiburón, Camilo... We are talking about the base of Mexico’s national team. They were league champions in 1996-97, but there were other players coming through as part of the generational change under LaVolpe - Darío Franco, Tapita García, Daniel Guzmán, Juan Carlos Chávez, Jafet Soto... all experienced players. Those games were end-to-end, first I had to mark Matador Martínez then Ramón Morales, as well as Chima Ruiz. But I had to face the whole team, I struggled to stop them, but they were great matches.