"I’d like to think they’re very proud, and they seem to be whenever we talk. I’ve always wanted to make my mother and father proud,” explained Mexico’s goalkeeper Abraham Romero, who has been keeping his parents posted on his exploits at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015, where El Tri have advanced to the last eight.
The Romero family moved to California over 20 years ago, before the teenage custodian was even born, in search of a better life for their children. Taking up their story, the youngster said: “My father has been working in the same building since he arrived and my mother is a cleaner. Obviously I wasn’t around, but I’m sure it must have been tough for them to learn a new language, a new culture and be part of a minority.”
Evidently proud of his parents and their ability to withstand adversity, Romero has inherited something of their dogged determination, having fulfilled a childhood dream of his in playing for Mexico. An avid fan of El Tri, he followed the U-17 side’s exploits when they won the world title on home soil in 2011 and watched them again on their run to the final at UAE 2013.
“I started to follow the team when I was eight,” he explained. “When I was ten, I told my mother: ‘I’m going to play in the World Cup with Mexico when I’m 17.’ She just laughed. She didn’t expect me to go on and be that good.”
A USA player from U-12 level through to the U-16s, he eventually decided to turn his back on his adopted country after a series of sporting and personal disagreements. Called up to represent the land of his parents, he found himself in a minority of one, the only player in the squad who did not live in Mexico.
As he explained, however, he was never made to feel like a stranger: “I don’t feel different to my team-mates. I grew up in a family where Mexican culture was always to the fore and where I was taught to respect the culture of both countries. I feel the same as any other Mexican, and my team-mates have never teased me about it. They’ve always been very open-minded about the whole thing.”
While Romero slotted in with his new colleagues straight away, he found the footballing culture a little bit harder to adjust to: “I felt the need to prove to my team-mates that I was good enough,” he explained. “I play for Los Angeles Galaxy and the standard in the age category in the States is not as high as it is in Mexico. I had to show that I wasn’t there by chance. I had to show that I’d worked for it. In time, I think I’ve managed to do that.”
The Tri keeper is now proving his worth to the rest of the world at Chile 2015. As well as boasting a save rate of 85.7 percent, the second-highest in the competition behind Brazil’s Juliano, he has shown his class time and again, not least in diving full stretch to keep out a well-placed free-kick in the goalless draw with Australia in the group phase.
Asked to judge his performances in the competition to date, he said: “Decent enough. I’m very critical of myself and my performances, but my father is pretty much the champion when it comes to things like that. He’s very hard (laughs), but I appreciate that because it’s made me grow up as a player and a person.
“I don’t like going on too much about my good performances, and I’d rather be critical about the things I haven’t done well, like the opening goal Chile scored from a corner (in the last 16). I’ve learned from that error and I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
Romero once gain hopes to do his family proud in Monday’s quarter-final against Ecuador in La Serena. “We faced them once in Mexico. They were that bit better prepared than us and we lost 2-0. I’m expecting a tough match because they’re very strong and fast in attack, good on the flanks and quick on the counter.
“I’m feeling confident, though, because we turned in a really intelligent performance when we beat Germany, who are the best team in the competition to my mind.”