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Apr 15, 2014

The man who forgot the value of Atlante

MEXICO CITY -- The "Tigre" dynasty runs in his blood. A successful Mexican businessman who once had control of the Grupo Televisa Football Board, dressed the Mexican national team with its brand -- Aba Sport -- during a World Cup qualifying campaign, and headed the "rescue" of the Mexican national team before the 2002 World Cup. Today, Alejandro Burillo Azcarraga has lost some of his longstanding presence in the sport -- he's still a successful businessman, but his precious and cherished Atlante has said its goodbyes to Liga MX.

- Canales: Relegation befalls Atlante

During the 1990s, Burillo Azcarraga was one of the big fish in Mexican soccer. He was involved in the most relevant matters, not only regarding Atlante, but the other teams owned by Grupo Televisa as well: Necaxa and America. The Mexican national team also benefited from his valuable leadership when he was head of the National Teams Committee. After sitting on top, he slowly started to lose ground, and was left with just his Atlante.

Backed by Televisa, he founded the Aba Sport company, which designed and produced the uniform that Mexico wore in the 1998 World Cup in France.

In 1996, he founded Grupo Pegaso, which came to own a phone company as well as investments in banks, hotels, radio stations and of course, soccer teams. There was a time when multiple ownership was even more blatant in Mexican soccer, when Burillo Azcarraga had three teams in the First Division (Atlante, Veracruz and Jaguares de Chiapas), and two in the Primera Division A [Second Division] (Acapulco and Zitacuaro).

His greatest contribution to Mexican soccer can be considered the "gift" of the High Performance Centre, the complex where the Mexican national team is coached and hold training camps. The creation of this place came after payment of the five million dollars that it cost to play a promotion match to stay in the top level after the team relegated in 2001. The complex, previously known as Pegasus High Performance Centre, was sold by Burillo Azcarraga to the Mexican Football Federation, with the discount of the promotion money.

Soccer and television have been Burillo Azcarraga's greatest pleasures. In 2000, he sold the shares that he held in Televisa to his cousin, Emilio Azcarraga Jean. His departure from the main Mexican television network meant starting from scratch in subsequent business ventures. Atlante has always been affected by the situation of Burillo's companies; his perceptions about soccer, always seeking government support to address the finances of the teams, which eventually buried the Potros de Hierro.

In the 2007 Apertura tournament, soccer made him smile for the last time. The title that Atlante won in their first campaign played in Cancun meant his maximum achievement in soccer for Burillo Azcarraga. The blue and red colors seemed that they would have deep roots in the Mexican Caribbean; all was joy and happiness. The inertia of the title led the Potros to play the Club World Cup the following year, where they were exhibited before the world and were eliminated at the expense of Pep Guardiola's FC Barcelona. Over time, key signings faded away along with Burillo Azcarraga's interests for the team. The government of Quintana Roo stopped supporting the team like before; they began to lose sponsors, to the extent that the club was dressed by Garcis (Atlante leader Jose Antonio Garcia's company), and only Grupo Pegaso sponsored it. Atlante ceased to be a profitable business for the Mexican businessman.

Wrong decisions, poor performance of his signings and no support from his home crowd eventually buried Atlante. In particular, the past six short tournaments were forgettable for the blue and red shirts. In the current Clausura 2014 they tried to mend the situation, but little can be done when they've done everything wrong for two-and-a-half years. During this time, the weight of Burillo Azcarraga in Atlante was forgotten. Although the team is still owned by him, it passed from being one of his priorities to just one more of his businesses.

Now, Burillo Azcarraga has the difficult task of starting from scratch with Atlante. He already did it in television. He was erased after leaving Televisa, but he found an interesting niche in the U.S. with the Hispanic market. The Mexican businessman should remember what Atlante's colors mean for him and for thousands of faithful fans.

The Potros are no longer elite; Alejandro Burillo Azcarraga is no longer a heavyweight in Mexican soccer. One of the most important men in recent decades, he has lost much of the value that he had left in national soccer.