FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™

FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™

26 October - 17 November

FIFA U-17 World Cup

El Mesmari, the Mexican ‘Bruce Lee’ dreaming of a Brazil reunion

FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 - Bruce El-Mesmari of Mexico looks on
© Getty Images
  • Mexican was named Bruce after legendary martial artist Bruce Lee
  • His ancestors fled Armenia during tragedy of early 20th century
  • Player hoping to reunite with relatives in Brazil and become world champion

"Mum tells me I was named Bruce after Bruce Lee. They were going to call me Brandon, after his son, but I’m really grateful they didn’t as I don’t like the name."

Bruce El Mesmari's laughter bursts forth even faster than his searing runs down the left wing. Short but exceedingly quick, the Mexican wide man, who frequently leaves opponents grasping at straws, seems to have inherited some of the famed agility of the legendary actor.

Indeed, he even considered dedicating himself to martial arts, before settling on football in the end: "I was a black belt but, when the time came to make up my mind, I chose football."

It turned out to be an inspired decision as he is now one of the prize jewels of Pachuca’s football academy. So does this talent for football run in the family? "I don't think so to be honest. None of my ancestors played the game. I'm the first."

FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019 -  Ulises Lezcano of Paraguay struggles for the ball with Bruce El-Mesmari of Mexico
© Getty Images

Family ties

What he did undoubtedly inherit is bravery: his first surname is Lebanese and his second, Sangochian, is Armenian. His maternal great-great-grandparents managed to escape the tragedy afflicted on the Armenian people in the early 20th century. First, they tried to settle in New York, then they went to Veracruz before finally putting down roots in Mexico City. His great-aunt, however, decided to try Brazil.

"When I found out that the World Cup had been switched to Brazil, I was very happy. I knew I’d be able to see my relatives after many years. I've been in contact with them since before the tournament, urging them to come and watch me."

In his side’s opening game against Paraguay, the 17-year-old came off the bench in the 55th minute. "My heart was beating fast. I’d been working towards that moment since I was a young boy. A World Cup in your age category... it’s something every young kid dreams of."

Upon taking to the pitch, a small ovation could be heard at the Estadio Bezerrao in Brasilia (Gama). Leading the applause were his parents and younger sisters, who had made the journey to cheer him on. But what about his Brazilian relatives?

"They live in Sao Paulo. They promised me that if we get to the knockout phase, they’ll come to watch me, so it's extra motivation to get through."

Winning mentality

Of course, the dream scenario would be to go all the way and help Mexico win a third world title in this category on 17 November. "We’ve come here prepared to lift the trophy. Obviously, we’ll be taking things one game at a time, but we know what we’ve come here to do and will be giving our all to achieve it."

A keen admirer of compatriots Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela, the Mexican sees them as role models and the standard he must aspire to. In his quest to follow in their footsteps, Bruce El Mesmari Sangochian is certainly not lacking in self-belief, telling us at the end of our interview that "football is what I love the most, and I think I’ll achieve great things".

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