Spearheading a new wave of Mexican players making the move to the bright lights of European football is 27-year-old forward Francisco Fonseca, whose Budweiser Man of the Match performance against Portugal at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ went some way towards earning him a summer transfer to Lisbon giants Benfica.
A few months into his adventure on Portuguese soil, Benfica's No. 17 took time out of his busy schedule to chat to FIFA.com about adjusting to life in a new city, the exodus of Mexican footballers to foreign shores, and the imminent announcement of a new Mexico national team coach.
FIFA.com: Señor Fonseca, now that you have finally achieved your dream of playing in European football, how are you enjoying life at your new club?
Francisco Fonseca: It's been great so far, the people here at Benfica have been fantastic to me. Experiencing another style of football, meeting my new team-mates, and learning about a new city has been really rewarding.
Lisbon is a city with a very rich and diverse history, tell us how you have spent your last few weeks here in the Portuguese capital?
What has really struck me is just how laid-back it is. I enjoy being able to go out for a walk and wander around the streets of the city without being hassled. The people here are very respectful and only ask you for your autograph when they're sure you've got time. I tend to spend my time taking it easy at home or getting to know the city. That said, I think the best thing here is the food - the food's just great!
In Mexico there has been talk in the past about the 'Jamaicon Syndrome' (named after former Mexican international Jose 'Jamaicon' Villegas), to describe those players who struggle to settle abroad due to homesickness. What is your opinion on this phenomenon?
It does happen, but fortunately not in my case. The truth is that I don't miss home all that much. I've been living alone for a while now, I'm not married, and I'm continually in touch with my parents and my friends. Luckily there are so many ways of chatting to people in Mexico nowadays, I'm always on the Internet or on the phone, and I speak to my friends and family nearly every day.
Do you still speak to your fan club members?
I speak to them more often than anybody else. They keep me up-to-speed with everything that's going on in Mexico and they're always fully behind me. I'm extremely grateful to them.
So far you haven't been able to cement a first-team place with Benfica.
That's right, and to tell you the truth I'd like to be playing a bit more often, but I'm not at all concerned. I've spoken to the coach and the board of directors many times. They explained exactly what kind of a role they've got planned for me and I'm honestly very happy with what they've had to say. All that's left for me to do now is keep working hard in training, like I've always done, and I'm sure I'll get my chance.
That could be particularly important with next year's Copa America in mind.
Of course, but I'll always be there for Mexico when they need me. I've always given my all when I've been called up for international duty and that's never going to be any different. I'll be ready.
On that note, Mexico have yet to appoint a new national team coach. Who do you think should be given the job?
Hugo Sanchez. He was my coach at Pumas and we worked together really well. He's a born winner and he would be able to infuse the national team with that winning mentality. I know Hugo very well and I think he's the right man for the job.
Before the FIFA World Cup™, you said that Mexican players ought to play their football abroad. How do you feel now that many of them have done just that?
I said it before the tournament and I think that I'm even more right in saying it now. I think (moving abroad) is a great decision for everybody involved. Trying new experiences is the only way you can improve. I also believe that this is only the beginning. Those of us who came over this summer are only the first of a new trend. Our performances should serve as a shop window and open the door for more players to come over in the next few years.
Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow countrymen playing here in Europe?
The truth is that I've not been able to. During the World Cup we chatted a lot about the various offers we had on the table and whether we'd be able to move abroad, but once we got to Europe we just haven't had the chance. If I'm honest, I've not got their phone numbers, if you could get them for me I'd be really grateful (laughs)!