By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
As the coordinator of fuerzas básicas for Monarcas Morelia, Castro oversees the various teams that groom boys to play professionally. He came to Santa Ana in June for his first visit since the recently forged agreement and said he was impressed with a few players and the facilities. "I went to Santa Ana to visit them, to orient them and to support them," he says. "I saw some kids who really caught my eye, who are going to come to Morelia in December. We'll see if they fit the profiles for positions we need."
According to Castro, the partnership is a win-win. "In Santa Ana, there are plenty of talented kids," he says. "But it's important to have these training centers so there's a wide-open door into the world of professional soccer."
In the past, boys who have moved to Morelia from the U.S. haven't had much trouble adapting, Castro says, adding that because of their Hispanic roots, the boys often still feel at home. He adds, however, that the chances of playing as a foreigner are very slim—because the Mexican teams only take in three or four foreigners total—and that boys who have Mexican citizenship, or can get it, are more likely to be recruited.
If at least one of the boy's parents was born in Mexico, it's pretty easy to get citizenship. Such is the case for the Anaya family, as Felipe was born in Mexico. "Right now, he's a gringo, but I can get him citizenship, so it's doable," Anaya explains. Even with the citizenship, Anaya says, he knows things wouldn't be easy for Julian in Morelia. "He's still going to have to work hard, and he's still going to have to ride the bench for a while because he's not connected."
For Naranjo, knowing it won't be easy makes the dream of landing a gig with Monarcas Morelia all the more enticing. "That motivates me more," he says. "Now, you're not just playing normal; now, you gotta try harder. It's a goal. It takes a lot of time, and you have to put effort into it. You have to sacrifice other things."
This article appeared in print as "OC's Mini-Monarcas: A Mexican first-division soccer team looks to groom its next generation of talent in Santa Ana."