Patricio Araujo holds the proud distinction of being the first Mexican player to hold aloft a FIFA World Cup trophy. The Guadalajara defensive midfielder was captain of his national team when they won the FIFA U-17 World Cup Peru 2005 and, in so doing, got to experience what only a small number of players ever do.
Who better then to offer some advice to his compatriots as they prepare to contest the 2011 edition on home soil? Talking exclusively to FIFA.com, the 23-year-old recalls that historic event in Peru, the impact it has had on his subsequent career, and talks about the lessons the class of 2011 can take from it.
We start by revisiting that memorable night in Lima, when Mexico upset the odds with an emphatic 3-0 win over Brazil in the final. “Right at that moment I felt a surge of emotion,” says Araujo. “My team-mates and I had the highest possible expectations. We didn’t feel nervous but rather very confident, and it was with that mindset that we took to the field. When we went two-up, I just knew it was going to be our day, and after the third goal, I told the guys, ‘Let’s just protect our lead and close the game out’. As you can imagine, the moment when the final whistle went was unforgettable,” Araujo says nostalgically.
As captain, minutes later he got to hoist aloft the coveted trophy and secure his place in the history of Mexican football. “El profesor (coach Jesus Ramirez) believed in me and my team-mates. It fell to me to be the group representative when accepting the trophy from FIFA, which was personally very satisfying and something I’d love to repeat one day with the senior team.”
Peru 2005 also had a lasting effect on the mindset of El Tri. From that moment on, Mexico’s players realised how important it was to be mentally prepared and not contemplate defeat before a ball has even been kicked. The flexible defender explains how that process came about. “It was down to Chucho (Ramirez). He brought it home to us that our opponents were not superior and didn’t possess magical powers or four arms or legs. That was how we banished the illusion that players from other countries are somehow better than us.”
On returning to their homeland, the consequences of that world title would be immediate and far-fetching. “That championship changed our lives completely. People suddenly knew who you were but also had very high expectations, which those of us who’d been there felt obliged to meet. In addition, we got first-team debuts that bit sooner and assumed greater responsibility,” says the Guadalajara enforcer.
Araujo has already played six times for the senior Mexico team, although he did not feature in the squad that travelled to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, unlike fellow Peru 2005 veterans Giovani dos Santos and Carlos Vela. Despite that, the player is not losing faith. “They had the chance to go there, but those of us who didn’t won’t be left behind. I’m going to strive towards my goal of playing at a senior World Cup. I want to realise that dream and give everything I have to help the team win the world title. I want to prove to Mexico that we can do it,” he says with unshakeable belief.
The Chivas player is happy to pass on advice to his compatriots as they finalise their preparations to host the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 in three months’ time. “First and foremost I’d advise them to be very professional and do the work asked of them conscientiously. And they mustn’t ease up at all. They’ll be playing on home soil with their fellow countrymen, cheered on by the entire country, so if that doesn’t motivate them, I don’t know what will. As for the games themselves, the key is to be in the best possible shape physically. In terms of technique, Mexican players are right up there, so with the right conditioning, they’d be almost unstoppable,” he says.
The former U-17 skipper finishes by offering to help his compatriots in any way he can. “I’ve already spoken to the squad members who are at Chivas, and I’m willing to help the others with anything I can, like explaining what it was that gave us the impetus and self-belief to succeed. It would just be a matter of arranging it, but we’d be more than happy to pass on the benefit of our experiences.”