The year is 2010. Johannesburg Stadium is the scene. Argentina and Diego Armando Maradona celebrate their Round of Sixteen 3-1 victory against Mexico. Once again, la albiceleste crushes Mexico’s dream of a "fifth" game in the grand world stage.
Guillermo Ochoa walks in a disenchanted fashion. His mouth and nose are partially covered by his black scarf, making him look like a hooligan rather than an elite goalkeeper. He looks disinterested, melancholic, and gutted.
As the days for South Africa’s World Cup inauguration approached, the possibility of having Ochoa as Mexico’s starting goalkeeper was high. Unexpectedly, this possibility took a huge blow in Wembley when Javier Aguirre opted to put the veteran Oscar Pérez in goal against England.
El Vasco’s decision to put El Conejo Pérez in the goal -- after Memo had played most of the crucial games during CONCACAF qualifiers -- perplexed the fans and the soccer world.
Who knows what would have been Ochoa’s future if he had played during the 2010 World Cup? Everyone has a different destiny. But fortunately, this sour moment in his career allowed him to grow as a human being and as a professional in a sport that moves the masses in France, Mexico, Honduras, or Cote d’Ivoire.
"¡Memo Ochoa se irá al Ajaccio!" read the newscasts and newspapers in Mexico this past summer. The news created a lot of emotions amongst Mexican soccer followers and analysts. There were those who applauded the decision and believed Ochoa was making a huge jump in his effort of becoming an important goalkeeper for Mexico. There were others who joked about it in an immature and improper manner, for Ajaccio would be making its debut in Ligue 1, after playing in Ligue 2 since the 2006-07 season.
The fact that AC Ajaccio had a modest background and not the economic resources of the likes of Olympique de Marseille, Olympique Lyonnais, or Paris Saint Germain, gave the negative minded proponents evidence to believe that Ochoa’s side and goal would get obliterated during each match.
The name of Guillermo Ochoa is causing a stir in France. Thanks to his valor and sacrifices, of which include leaving behind a highly accommodating contract with Club America, Ochoa is winning Ajaccio fans’ hearts and Ligue 1 followers’ attention.
Last Friday night, Ajaccio pulled off an important victory of 1-0 against Didier Deschamps’ Olympique de Marseille at Stade François Coty in Ajaccio. The Marseille team will play an important match next Tuesday in Milan against Internazionale in the Champions League Round of Sixteen.
Ajaccio stands 13th in the Ligue 1 table with 29 points. Only three points salvage the Corsica squad from relegation. Consequently, the challenge for Ochoa and his teammates is to keep AC Ajaccio in the big leagues.
Alain Orsoni, AC Ajaccio’s president, refers to his decision of bringing Memo to his squad as his best decision. Ochoa’s probable next step is to play for a Champions League club, but the reality is that Ochoa should always be thankful for arriving at AC Ajaccio, and AC Ajaccio should always be thankful for having Ochoa as its goalkeeper.