Joel Sánchez: “Love for Chivas, respect for América”
‘El Tiburón’ is one of a privileged group of players who have played for two of the biggest clubs in Mexican soccer.
Joel Sánchez is one of 50 players who have played the Liga MX’s Super Clásico between América and Chivas on both sides. Now 49, and 12 years since hanging up his boots for good, El Tiburón still feels a strong allegiance to both clubs and finds himself torn ahead of Saturday’s clash - the 250th meeting between these two giants of Mexican soccer. An even bigger dilemma is predicting a score...
Despite the fact that almost two decades have passed since Sánchez surprised everyone with his decision to move from Chivas to América, his feelings have not changed and he states that he still has love for the Guadalajara team and respect for the Coapa team.
That was exactly how he expressed it to AS México, on one of the rare occasions that he deals with the media: “It’s truly a privilege, there are few players who have that honor of having worn the most representative shirts in the country, of the greatest clubs - Chivas and América and also the national team. Many people criticized me for deciding to play for América, but I don’t regret it and I am sure that a lot of people also know that my greatest love will be for Chivas. I have gratitude and respect for América, but my love will always be for Chivas,” he explained.
You say that there is love for Chivas, but your professionalism has always been the same towards both clubs?
That’s something else really. At the end of the day, you play and represent an institution and you have to take that role as a professional - as I did at the time with Chivas, and with the national team, Tecos, Veracruz... and all of the others teams that I had to represent back then. It’s what you have to do, you owe to this beautiful profession. I felt very privileged. I told you that my eternal love will be for Chivas, but I do not stop being grateful to the other clubs that I played for. They gave me an opportunity to represent them at certain points in my career, to be close to being a champion, to have great media coverage, with great fans, so it is a privilege that few can enjoy.
Did it feel uncomfortable playing for América at first?
Strange, yes. It feel a little strange, because when I pulled on Chivas’ shirt I felt stronger, I identified with the club. But with América it was different, because I wasn’t born there, I didn’t have the roots that I have with Chivas. América people show me respect and Chivas people show me love. It’s different, but it is a privilege to have represented the two most important clubs, with the biggest media coverage, with the most fans - unique clubs in Mexico.
How did the offer from América come about and why did you decide to accept?
From what I mentioned a moment ago, perhaps many people can criticize my determination to play for the two most important teams in the country and I understand that, because they give me their opinion as fans. But I am not a fan, for me it’s something very different, it is something very difficult for others to understand. It is very clear to me - if I explain it very well, although it is not an easy thing to explain. Because in the end, they will understand it from a perspective of what people want. Of course I respect all of that, but few people respect what that I might think or decide to do and that is something that I have to try to understand.
At home, when you told your family that you were joining América, what did your father, your mother, your relatives say to you?
My parents, my brothers, nephews, my friends are all big Chivas fans so, yes they were surprised. But in the end it was something purely professional and at best it was difficult to understand it. As their son, they had to support my decision - imagine if they didn’t! My family are Chivas through and through but their love for me goes beyond all of that and that’s what they have shown to me.
Do you have a favorite for Saturday’s Clásico?
I’m going to speak to you from the heart - I want Chivas to win 3-0 and I’m going to speak to you objectively, Chivas is going to win 3-0. I see them as the stronger side on this occasion.