Lozano and Herrera guide Pachuca's latest hopeful

  • Talented youngster receives advice from Hector Herrera and Hirving Lozano

  • Lozano: "It's very easy to end up settling"

  • We look closer at the secrets to Pachuca's success

Jose Castillo is very close to fulfilling a dream beyond the reach of many. Still only 19, he has spent the last ten years of his life devoting all his energies to becoming a professional footballer with Mexico’s Pachuca.

Along the way he has experienced many highs and lows and even came close to giving up on his dream altogether. But having excelled in the right-back slot for his club’s U-20 side and earned call-ups for Mexico’s youth teams, Josesito is now on the verge of the big break he has been waiting for.

With less than a month to go before the Torneo Apertura 2020 gets under way, FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Castillo about the journey he has taken so far. Also chipping in were two of the club’s directors and former Pachuca stars Hirving Lozano and Hector Herrera, who had some valuable advice for the youngster.

Jose Castillo of Pachuca (Photo Courtesy of Pachuca)

Support all the way

Pachuca look for players as young as ten, as their director of football, Marco Garces, explained: “Pachuca is a city that doesn’t traditionally produce players, which means we have to go out and find them in other states in Mexico. And if we go looking for players aged 15 or 18, then America, Chivas [Guadalajara], Tigres and the rest take them all.”

But the task of adapting to new surroundings is not easy for any youngster with designs on becoming a footballer. Almost every one of them who makes it has to overcome a series of obstacles.

“It was tough. I really missed my family, my parents and my brothers,” recalled Napoli and Mexico attacking midfielder Hirving 'El Chucky' Lozano, who started out with Pachuca. “The club’s facilities at the time didn’t help a lot. It was a bit spartan back then, so it was hard.”

Though Josesito has been fortunate enough to train at first-class facilities, the competition for places remains as tough as ever. “When I came here at the age of ten it was like a pyramid: when you move up a level there’s less space for people,” said the 19-year-old. “One day there are 20 of you and before long there are only five. And if you want to make the first team, maybe only one of you is going to get there. There are some who don’t even get to have a trial.”

Pachuca in numbers

  • 16 scouts and 300 academies in Mexico.

  • 1 team per age group, with 22 players.

  • 65 players in all Mexico’s national teams.

  • Some 100,000 players watched every year.

  • 1000 of them have trials at the club.

"When I started out in this 25 years ago, we knew that we didn’t want a conventional football team that just focuses on the sporting and commercial side of things. We embarked instead on a more expensive and difficult journey. Our club is founded on five mainstays, the first and most important of which is social in nature (with more than 80,000 children training at our feeder clubs). Then there are the academic and cultural aspects, which really enhance our image, and which dovetail with the sporting and commercial concerns." Club Pachuca President Jesus Martinez

PACHUCA, MEXICO - APRIL 04:  Hirving Lozano of Pachuca celebrates after scoring the second goal of his team during the semifinals second leg match between Pachuca and FC Dallas as part of the CONCACAF Champions League 2017 at Hidalgo Stadium on April 04, 2017 in Pachuca, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/LatinContent via Getty Images)

A liftetime bond

Pachuca’s hopefuls live together, go to school together and end up becoming part of one big family, which explains why Atletico Madrid’s Hector Herrera, who has spent the last seven years in Europe, will always have Los Tuzos in his heart.

While Herrera enjoyed some happy times with Pachuca, there were some less pleasant moments too, as he explained: “I was loaned out to Tampico when I was 21. That’s when I thought about giving up football and looking for something else to do. I was married, my wife was pregnant and my future at the club wasn’t very clear. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and I wasn’t getting paid. That’s when Pachuca gave me money to help me out, and I got back on with my career again.”

Castillo has also endured the most difficult days of his life during his time at the club: “My brother, who was at Pachuca too, had to have three heart operations. They were really tough times because he’d watch me play without being able to play himself. His life was in danger in every operation but luckily he managed to pull through.”

SEVILLE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 22: Hector Herrera of Club Atletico de Madrid looks on during the Liga match between Real Betis Balompie and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Benito Villamarin on December 22, 2019 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

Advice from the stars

Hector Herrera: “Study English and train hard. Learn about European football and the mindset there. Never give up on your dreams and never tire of preparing for them; you never know when your day’s going to come. Always work as hard as you can so that you’re ready when your chance comes and you can make the most of it. That’s what’s always happened to me: I’ve had tough times in football, when I’ve not been given the consideration I think I deserved. So when I get that opportunity, I’m ready to take it and show them they can rely on me.”

Hirving Lozano: “Focus hard on education, languages, training and everything that Pachuca has to offer. When you move country and you go to Europe the pace is different, the mindset is different, which can be tough for someone from Mexico. Young players have to make the most of everything they can because it’s very easy just to end up settling for what you’ve got and not take the opportunities that come your way.”

An eternal love

The rapport between the three players was clear to see. Herrera cracked jokes with Lozano, who encouraged Josesito to follow in his footsteps, the youngster only too pleased to get some advice from his heroes. Though Herrera lives in Spain, Lozano in Italy and the up-and-coming Castillo in Mexico, the love they share for Pachuca makes the distance between them all the shorter.

“To my mind it’s a family,” said Herrera. “They showed me that we really are a family and that you always have to go back. I’ve spoken about it a thousand times with the president, Jesus Martinez: the day I come back to Mexico is the day I’ll come back to Pachuca.”

Sharing that sentiment, Lozano said: “They educated me from a very young age. It’s my home. They gave me everything. I have friends and brothers there. Everything that happened to me there was wonderful and when I look back on it now it makes me very happy.”