Carlos Vela has been a hot topic this week. Not only because of the commanding way he led LAFC to the MLS Cup Final against Philadelphia Union this Saturday, but also because of the heavy criticism he has received in Mexico after a report emerged saying he had refused to represent the national team in the World Cup. Again.
The talented midfielder has a long story of ups and downs with El Tri and the newest episode of this tense relationship was unleashed a few days ago when TUDN reporter Gibrán Araige said the Mexican Federation approached Vela asking him if he would be willing to travel to Qatar.
EXCLUSIVA de @GibranAraigeLa Federación Mexicana habló con Carlos Vela
En vivo por TUDN pic.twitter.com/IYpi9WXFwm
— Línea de 4 (@Lineade4TUDN) November 2, 2022
Vela denied the report.
"I don't know why people keep wanting to look for something that isn't there," he said to Herculez Gomez on ESPN. "We already know the people who are going to Qatar and we have to support them. Vela? Chicharito? We're not there. Case closed."
“CASO CERRADO.” – Carlos VelaEl delantero del LAFC responde a la noticia que la Selección Mexicana intentó a convencerlo una última vez para jugar en Qatar 2022.@mauriciopedroza @herculezg @ESPNDeportes @11carlosV #Tri pic.twitter.com/8lBtLEolmK
— Ahora o Nunca ESPN (@ahoraonuncaespn) November 3, 2022
However, between the report and Vela's clarification, there was a whole news cycle in which some pundits mauled the player.
One of the most vocal was ESPN analyst David Faitelson. He asked Vela in a recorded question if he thought he would regret not having represented Mexico in the World Cup. And after Vela replied, "No," he went right to social media to criticize him for not having the right mentality to face the challenge.
"It seems absurd to me to beg a player to play in the national team. If Carlos Vela doesn't want to play in the World Cup it is because he has a very poor mentality despite being a good player.", he said.
Me parece absurdo “rogarle” a un futbolista para que juegue con la selección mexicana. Si Carlos Vela es capaz de desechar un Mundial, tiene una mentalidad muy pobre pese a ser un buen futbolista…— David Faitelson (@Faitelson_ESPN) November 2, 2022
Mexican-Argentine TUDN pundit Damián Zamogilny also went hard, calling Vela and those who defend him "pechos fríos" (cold chest), a classic Spanish soccer phrase to describe athletes who don't perform in crucial moments. A choker, if you prefer.
"I don't understand and will never understand any reason why a soccer player will say no to his national team. And all those who go on life being intellectuals, understanding Carlos Vela's decision, are also pechos fríos. A lot of talent, zero passion," he wrote.
No entiendo ni entenderé ninguna razón por la cual un futbolista le diga que no a la selección de su país. Y todos aquellos que se hacen los intelectuales entendiendo la decisión de Carlos Vela son igual de pechos fríos. Mucho talento, cero pasión.— Damián Zamogilny (@RusoZamogilny) November 2, 2022
You can call me intellectual or pecho frío if you want, but I honestly believe that the reaction to Vela's decision not to represent Mexico is way over the top. As much as I love soccer, I understand that the decision to play for El Tri – or not – has nothing to do with mentality but with choices and life goals. And Vela's life goals seem pretty clear: family, peace of mind, etc.
At the same time, playing the pride card, saying that there is nothing like representing your country in a sports competition, it's just old boring chauvinism.
So, why does Carlos Vela not play for Mexico?
With the whole discussion out again, the question in the air is why Vela decided to stop playing for El Tri.
As I said previously, the relationship between the player and the national team hasn't been a solid marriage. Vela did play in the 2010 and the 2018 World Cups, but he was absent in 2014 after differences with the federation related to an indiscipline incident in which several players were involved, but he was one of the only two sanctioned.
At some point, Mexican coach Miguel Herrera tried to convince him to be in Brazil then, but Vela refused to return to El Tri.
Eventually, Vela came back to play in the World Cup in Russia, but a few months later he decided to quit the national team, saying it was time for the new generations. And since then, in May of 2019, he hasn't donned the Mexican jersey again.
During the Gerardo Martino era, the idea of the return has floated around from time to time, but the player has constantly repeated the same argument. And for those who are trying to see conflict under the rocks, Vela this week was emphatic.
"I respect Tata Martino a lot, the same with the people in the federation because I haven't had an issue with them. I have nothing bad to say about them. In the end, I have always wished them the best. I clarified my position with Martino and that's it. I don't know why people want to keep looking for things that don't exist".