After a draining 2012 season, Landon Donovan told the LA Galaxy and the world he needed to take a break.
The top player in MLS, coming off back-to-back MLS Cup wins, Donovan’s decision to step away for several months, citing his mental health, drew considerable reaction, positive and negative. Many rallied behind the player, who in the end missed very little time for the Galaxy on the field, but not everyone shared that sentiment.
Less than a decade later, another Galaxy star, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, also endured a difficult year in front of the bright lights, and while he hasn’t asked for a sabbatical from his career like Donovan, there are parallels between the players, arguably the brightest stars for their respective countries for their generation.
Chicharito has admitted 2020 was a “rock bottom” period for him personally, as struggles on the field with the Galaxy mixed with personal issues, including the death of his grandfather in Mexico.
The star is used to being scrutinized on a daily basis, and fully admits he did not live up to his standards on the field in his first season in LA, but also when asked by reporters on Wednesday during media availability ahead of Sunday’s season opener against Inter Miami, said there needs to be better recognition in the press and elsewhere that professional athletes are people, too.
“I think the narrative of ourselves is in your hand sometimes, and is in my hands, for example, right, because I can post something [on social media] that is very vulnerable,” Chicharito said in English. “And if you twist it, we cannot have the same impact like your question right now so I think what do you say that is, a subject that is very difficult to tell. I hope one day we can normalize that, that it doesn’t matter how much fame you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, it doesn’t matter how much success you have in a superficial way, it doesn’t matter, nothing about it, you’re just still a human right, you are not more or less than any human being in this world, it doesn’t matter.”
In discussing his mental health and personal struggles, Chicharito, who is generally quite talkative, at one point apologized for how much he was saying in response to the question.
“What I mean, like athletes and what your job has a lot of engagement in social media, a lot of impact in your words, a lot of responsibility. I think we shouldn’t ask for perfection because perfection doesn’t exist. What makes us incredible that we are humans and we are not perfect. I’m here each day, we can improve each day, we can learn each day, we go through very difficult things every single day, but some other basic difficulties and difficulties never gonna stop in your life when you try to reach like like a flat, happy place that does not [exist]. Like soccer is like [other] jobs, you always want to bring an improvement in yourself, your emotional way when you’re a dad, when you are with your family, when you are with friends, when you are with a couple, when you are with your boss, when you are the boss.
“I hope one day, we can normalize ourselves, and we are humans, right, we are humans Simple, similar beings here in this position, doesn’t mean that I have more value than yourself...And so we go through a lot of stuff. We’re gonna keep going through stuff, but the most important thing is like, we can see ourselves as a human that we want to push ourselves, we still want to do what we want. We are passionate about it, but we shouldn’t ask perfection for ourselves because we are humans in the end. I’m not a robot. I’m not perfect,” he explained.
Of course, with the first game around the corner, Chicharito was asked about the season to come, too, and while he did not want to directly compare 2020’s head coach, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, with new head coach Greg Vanney, he said he felt good about the upcoming season.
“We are very excited, very motivated, very confident about what the manager brought into this organization, the idea of playing very attacking possession soccer,” he said.
And for those who have labeled him a “bust” in MLS, Chicharito is out to prove them all wrong.
“I don’t know how we can measure how motivated I am, I don’t think there are enough words to tell you how motivated I am, I’m just simply very, very motivated,” he said. “I think you all can see that in my social media, in my interviews, in the way that I’m trying to improve myself in every aspect in my life. So, yeah, I’m kinda like very, very excited, very motivated and hopefully I can give my best and I can be my best version every single game, so I can tell my team and my teammates and all the coaching staff to do my part, so we can win games and that’s the most important thing.”
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