Mexican youngster Omar Govea making a name for himself in Europe
MEXICO CITY -- The story of Omar Govea took an important turn when he left Mexico for Portugal in 2015. At the time, FC Porto got Govea on-loan from Liga MX's Club America. A year later Porto purchased his playing rights from America, but Govea would only get playing time with FC Porto B that season. Although he spent his significant formative years with America and Porto, Govea never made a first division debut with either side. That breakthrough finally came this summer with Belgian side Royal Excel Mouscron, who brought Govea in on loan in July from Porto with the possibility of acquiring his playing rights permanently at the end of the year-long loan.
Now, Govea, at 21-years-old, is living an unprecedented but exciting moment with Mouscron. He is not only getting constant playing time at his current club, but also, Mouscron currently sit in third place in the Jupiler Pro League with 13 points, three behind first-place Charleroi and only two behind second-place Club Brugge, who Mouscron defeated last Saturday.
"I'm very happy," Govea said to describe to ESPN FC how he felt after Mouscron's big win over the weekend. "During the FIFA break, the team mentalized and prepared well for this match. We knew it was going to be difficult because we were going against the current leaders, a team that hadn't lost a single game yet. It was a great challenge for us.
"We're doing a lot of great things this season, and I think it showed [vs. Club Brugge]. This team is ready for great things, and in these type of games, we got to show it. A great result during a great start to the season gives us confidence to continue improving."
Govea has been a starter in all of Mouscron's first six matches, tallying 515 minutes along the way. He's even already appeared twice in the league's weekly Best XI. His adaptation period to Belgium has been swift. "I learned a lot from those two years at Porto. They were incredible years, where my football got better, and I grew as a person. To live in another country is not easy, but when you land in groups that are very positive and open, like it was the case at Porto, and now is at Mouscron, it's easier to work and get things done.
"I'm very happy here, learning quickly, and I do feel that I'm doing a lot of great things," he said.
An aspect that stands out about Govea's current team is that it's full of young players, all of whom have dreams of making successful careers in Europe. The recent goal that Govea scored in Mouscron's 3-2 win over Gent was assisted by 20-year-old Nigerian striker Taiwo Awoniyi. Govea and Awoniyi have a story that unites them: An Under-17 World Cup final.
In 2013, Nigeria beat Mexico 3-0 in the U17 World Cup final, and both Govea and Awoniyi started. "Actually a couple of days ago, I saw his Instagram profile, and he saw mine's too. We found out that that we both had pictures from the same U-17 World Cup, so the next day at training that was our topic of conversation," Govea recalled. "He told me that that Nigeria team was incredible, that many of the players are now at important European clubs. For example, [Kelechi] Iheanacho who was at Manchester City and now is at Leicester City.
"So now to find him here at Mouscron, it says a lot about Nigeria's youth football programs, and the same can be said about Mexico. Each of us is searching for our dreams, and now we're teammates."
The fact that Govea decided to take on the challenge to head to Europe and transcend is paying off, especially as he progressively becomes one of Mouscron's most valuable players. What would have happened had he stayed at America? Why is it so difficult for Mexican footballers, who participate in U17 and U20 World Cups, to get first division opportunities in Liga MX?
Govea expressed some thoughts: "Like we all know, it's lack of opportunities. Also, the rules have changed in the league, and it's becoming more difficult for young footballers to advance. There's less opportunities because there are more foreigners in the league. In my opinion, the league's rules are making it tough for the chicos (kids).
"But I'm happy because lately there's been more young Mexican footballers coming to Europe. We all know that Mexico youth teams do a good job in forming footballers, and you can see that in each youth World Cup that takes place.
"I think that they [Mexican football directors] can do better because there are a lot of quality young players that can give a lot to the clubs."
Govea would have loved to have made his first division debut with a club he dearly loves like America, he describes it, as "el equipo de mis amores", but the return will have to wait. He's set on succeeding in Europe and is taking the necessary steps to generate curiosity from Mexico's national team manager, Juan Carlos Osorio, and his coaching staff.
After the 2-1 win over Club Brugge, a video was uploaded on Twitter by journalist Hugo Capelli. In it, Mouscron's players celebrated the victory ecstatically in the locker room, some of the players were even on top of tables going crazy, but in the background, Govea could be seen, walking past the commotion and taking a breather after a hard-fought game. He wasn't ecstatically celebrating the victory, rather more prudently taking in the joy being transmitted by the rest of his teammates. He's a living a dream, far away from home.
"My parents always told me to fight for my dreams. My favorite quote is, 'If you can dream it, you can accomplish it,' and it's true because if you have the capacity to dream great achievements, it's because you have the capacity to achieve them.
"As a piece of advice, I would tell the chicos to fight for their dreams, not to give up; it's not easy, but I'm sure it will be worth it.
"I fell down a lot of times, but I was able to get myself up. I think that your character is the one that helps you move forward," he ended.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.