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Uncertainty surrounds FC Juárez ahead of first season in Liga MX and Liga MX Femenil

FC Juarez v America - Copa MX 2019 Photo by Alvaro Avila/Jam Media/Getty Images

On June 11th, after weeks of rumors and speculation, it was officially announced that FC Juárez had purchased Lobos BUAP and would be taking the latter’s place in the top flight of Mexican fútbol ahead of the upcoming 2019 Apertura season. As a part of the deal, FC Juárez acquired Lobos BUAP’s relegation coefficient and all of its sporting obligations. These obligations include participation in the Sub-13, Sub-15, U-17 and U-20 fuerzas básicas tournaments and forming a women’s team to compete in the Liga MX Femenil.

Off the Field Drama

While news of FC Juárez’s “promotion” to the top flight of Mexican fútbol was met with enthusiasm by citizens of the borderland city, the rest of Mexico had a much less enthusiastic reaction to the news. Fútbol fans across Mexico took to social media to express their displeasure with the fact that Los Bravos had bought their way into the Liga MX in place of winning promotion on the field.

As if the reaction of fans across Mexico wasn’t bad enough, Dorados President José Antonio Núñez was incredibly critical of the move stating that Lobos BUAP’s 120 million peso “fine” to avoid relegation felt like nothing more than a business move as opposed to a sporting decision. Furthermore, Núñez criticized the seemingly one sided and secret negotiations that took place between FC Juárez and Lobos BUAP. “If Liga MX is going to allow the sale of teams, there should be an open bidding process. There are 14 other projects in the Ascenso MX and all of them know about fútbol and deserve the same chance as FC Juárez to buy their way into the first division,” commented Núñez shortly after the sale of Lobos BUAP was announced.

Almost immediately after the sale of Lobos BUAP to FC Juárez had been announced, rumors about the potentially fraudulent nature of the team’s sale began to circulate across social media and sports publications. The rumors stated that the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) was preparing a lawsuit to prevent the sale of Lobos based upon the fact that the university had not received their cut from the sale of the team as well as a supposed debt of 180 million pesos that majority team owner Mario Mendívil owes related to the operation of Lobos.

Mario Mendívil has come out publicly on several occasions to denounce any notion that the sale of the team was conducted in a fraudulent manner or that he owes any money to the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. Mendívil has even gone as far as to accuse BUAP of looking to stir up controversy as a way to stave off any negative press that might have resulted from the sale of Lobos. Mendívil’s lawyers have also stated that they have yet to receive official confirmation of any lawsuit regarding the matter.

FC Juárez Vice-President and Sporting Director Álvaro Navarro was forced to comment on the matter as rumors of the borderland club losing their right to play in Liga MX began to surface. “We have never had anything to do with the BUAP or with the rector, this was an operation between private individuals and businessmen. We complied 100 percent with the agreements and there is no way to stop the arrival of Juarez to the first division,” stated Navarro during a press conference about FC Juárez’s “promotion” to the Liga MX.

In spite of the assurances from both Mario Mendívil and Álvaro Navarro, the rumors of the BUAP pursuing a lawsuit to stop the sale of Lobos have not died down. On July 3rd, an opinion article by Récord columnist Ignacio Suárez implied that based on Liga MX rules and other official documents that the sale of Lobos BUAP was indeed fraudulent and that FC Juárez could potentially lose their right to play in the Liga MX depending on court rulings. Furthermore, it would be possible for FC Juárez to be forced to cancel any games remaining on their schedule if and when the ruling from the courts is given. All of this being based upon Suárez’s belief that Mario Mendívil technically didn’t have majority control and ownership of Lobos BUAP because he “owes” the university 180 million pesos for the operation of the team.

Preseason

While all of this drama has been going on, FC Juárez has been busy preparing for life in the top flight of Mexican fútbol. The borderland squad sold out the 20,000 seat Estadio Olímpico de Benito Juárez within the first few days of season ticket sales and should have an electric atmosphere at every home match. Los Bravos also held tryouts for their fuerzas básicas and women’s team during the last ten or so days of June.

However, nothing has been officially announced by FC Juárez in regards to the women’s team since the above tweet published on June 21. There was an official looking twitter account called @FCJuárezFemenil, but it was unexpectedly shut down for violating Twitter’s terms and conditions. A week away from their first ever match against León, there is next to nothing official known about FC Juárez Femenil apart from the fact that 20 year-old striker and Ciudad Juárez native Flor Rocío Rodríguez will suit up for las Bravas this season. Rodríguez previously played with Cruz Azul and Lobos BUAP and will bring three seasons of professional experience to the Liga MX Femenil debutants.

On the men’s side of things, FC Juárez has had a busy preseason with plenty of activity on the transfer markets with seven signings as well as several friendlies against Ascenso MX and Liga MX opposition as well as an upcoming international friendly on July 10th against Detroit City FC in Michigan. In their first three preseason matches Los Bravos lost 4-2 against Correcaminos UAT, tied 2-2 against León, and won 2-1 against Puebla.

On the transfer markets so far Los Bravos have signed: 26-year-old Mexican center forward Edu Pérez from Tampico Madero FC, 28-year-old Paraguyan central defender Gustavo Velazquez from Nacional de Paraguay/Lobos BUAP, 31-year-old Mexican left-winger Beto Acosta on loan from Tigres UANL, 30-year-old Argentine right-winger Mauro “Rayo” Fernández on loan from Tigres UANL, 31-year-old Mexican defensive midfielder Manuel Viniegra on loan from Tigres UANL, 23-year-old Ecuadorian holding midfielder Jefferson Intriago on loan from Tigres UANL, and 21-year-old Mexican midfielder Joaquín Esquivel from Lobos BUAP/Pachuca.

Jefferson Intriago and Joaquín Esquivel are by far the most interesting players that FC Juárez has signed in the run up to their inaugural season in Liga MX. Intriago will join up with the borderland squad after having captained LDU Quito in Ecuador and more recently after playing for his country in the Copa America earlier this summer. FC Juárez will be the first team that Intriago will play for outside of his native Ecuador.

Esquivel joins FC Juárez after a standout campaign with Lobos BUAP that saw him get the chance to represent Mexico at the Toulon Tournament where he was being closely monitored by several European clubs including PSV. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Esquivel signing with Los Bravos is that he was announced as an Atleti de San Luis player just 10 days prior.

There has been no official explanation as to why Esquivel was presented by both Atleti de San Luis and FC Juárez, but it is speculated that his contract was one of four that Los Bravos acquired with their purchase of Lobos BUAP. As a result of this, any agreement that they had made to acquire the player was rendered null and void.

Unfortunately for FC Juárez, Esquivel is likely going to miss the first few weeks of the season as he represents Mexico with the U-22 national at the Pan-American games in Peru. If Mexico makes it all the way to the final on August 9th, Esquivel will miss at least the first five weeks of the Liga MX season.

Even with their seven additions, it is difficult to see FC Juárez competing for the championship in their inaugural Liga MX season. Los Bravos will have one of the weaker squads in the first division and will likely struggle to score goals without some improvements at forward. It’s rumored that Los Bravos are going to sign a world-class player in the coming days, but until that happens they are a team that looks destined for a lower half of the table finish. Home games against Toluca, Monterrey, América, Chivas, and Tigres will only make it much more difficult for Los Bravos to get valuable points at home.

None of this will even matter if legal troubles between Mario Mendívil and the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla expose the sale of Lobos BUAP as fraudulent and force FC Juárez to give up their spot in the top flight of Mexican fútbol. With all of this in mind, there is a dark cloud of uncertainty handing over FC Juárez before its debuts in both the Liga MX and the Liga MX Femenil. But, for people in borderland, none of this seems to matter. To them, the excitement of first division fútbol and the hope that comes along with it are the only things that are important.