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Jun 3, 2014

Despite Montes' misfortune, he remained true to his game

Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera believes players can sometimes become the victims of their own commitment after seeing Luis Montes miss the World Cup with a broken leg.

Paco Vela, a Leon journalist, recalled something that Luis Montes once said: "I'd rather not go to the World Cup because I didn't hold anything back, than not go to the World Cup because I took care of myself."

And so Montes becomes a martyr to his own style of playing soccer: Play with everything you've got, play for everything and play for everyone.

His mentality was that it was better to respect himself than to betray himself. Unfortunately, the loyalty to his own code had a treacherous and disaffected punishment for a reward.

Nevertheless, a tibia and fibula fracture is the most ungrateful and unfaithful form in soccer to pay back one of its altruists on the field. And not only for Montes, but also for Segundo Castillo, who suffered a knee injury, as well, but was fortunate enough to make Ecuador's World Cup squad.

Prior to the match, Castillo had warned, "Whoever looks doubtful, whoever doesn't give their all, will not play in the World Cup."

Soccer is a harsh game. The sport placed Luis Montes on the pedestal at 33 minutes, by showcasing his skills, to score the 1-0 against Ecuador, where he fired a fierce shot that broke La Tri's defending.

The goal was a festive, allegorical, magical reverberation among the nearly 85,000 throats that populated the essentially green stands of the Dallas Cowboys' Stadium.

El Chapo Montes was the champion of his own murderous brutality. He joined his cry to the uproar, giving way to a rough, deaf, intense game under the pressure in all profiles of a pre-World Cup contest.

And afterward, the drama. The clashing of legs between Montes and Castillo, while the ball runs away from the collision. Reluctance to accept what the images indicated and affirmed. Fractured tibia and fibula.

The art of that goal and the tragedy of his injury led Mexico fans to the extremes of elation and frustration. That mixed, fickle, hateful, ironic mask, wherein the grimace of laughter and the counter grimace of crying meet.

So what now? There is no substitute for Luis Montes in Mexico. There are relief players, alternatives. In other words, optional.

Marco Fabián is one of the players hoping to fill his shoes. He scores a goal with the same tools as Montes. But he also appears with all the scrupulous reviews about a guy who in the past had concerns about consistency, perseverance and competitive integrity.

It's his moment to live up to expectations. Marked, it's true, by the stigma of someone else's misfortune, but it's his moment. Miguel Herrera must not only find a player close to Montes' versatility: to serve and be of service to others, with the quality of that illustrious team spirit, of a united consciousness.

It will be a challenge for him tactically. The shape won't change, but he must find supplements to maintain the flow of offensive and defensive support that he found in Montes, and especially to be added to complement the dark and sometimes daunting task of 'Gullit' Carlos Pena.

Luis Montes being carried off after suffering a broken leg.
Luis Montes being carried off after suffering a broken leg.

For now, the reading remains open. The Mexican team can't be repressed by the impact of Montes' injury. On the contrary, they should be inspired by the bold faith to use his misfortune as a rallying call. And everyone knows that on the field, the one who has the most fear is more likely to be injured than the one who takes a risk.

Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez said it well: "We live under the pressure of playing with everything we've got in order to deserve the title. Luis Montes has always understood this."

Montes will recover.

He obviously will be devastated to be forced into watching his teammates on the field, knowing he could be part of the starting XI. That will especially be true when he realizes that maybe, just maybe, he could have made the difference. Even so, he'll know he did the right thing, despite soccer's wrongful betrayal: He chose to respect his game's requirement to be committed on the pitch, rather than betray himself.

Because that's the only way Montes understands it: Play with everything you've got, play for everything and play for everyone.