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Big Fish, Big Pond: Mia Fishel swims against the current, chooses Tigres

The Tigres forward’s belief in herself has taken down a much different path, but ultimately one that many may follow.

Mia Fishel at Estadio Universitario. Tigres UANL Press Release

When Mia Fishel was a child growing up in San Diego, she couldn’t know that her future lied across the border a short light rail train ride to the south. “I never really went to México” while growing up, Fishel tells me during our Zoom call. “I only went when I had (US) National Team camp against México in México, but I’m very familiar with the culture. I grew up in San Diego, so I (was) like 10-15 minutes from the border.”

She did however know that soccer would take her places. “I think at a young age,” Fishel says. “I just really cared about the sport. It was my joy, and kind of like my purpose. Every day, I couldn’t wait to get to practice.”

“I took it so seriously,” Fishel continues. “And I wanted to grow individually, like every single day.”

That drive helped her set and achieve goals, but also expanded her worldview. “I just knew that soccer could take me everywhere in the world, especially knowing that the national team, (the) U14 team, and (the) different places I traveled to with the team and and knowing that I could possibly do this for a lifestyle, for my career. So I think probably middle school, I knew that I could play the sport, professionally, but this drive and how I saw myself started at a young age with the sport.”

Fishel has represented the United States at all youth levels and has been called to senior National Team camps, but is also eligible to represent Bermuda. Her father Patrick was born there, and she’s related to former Bermuda National Team players Andrew and David Bascome, and cousin Druw Bascome has featured for the Bermuda U17s, facing off against Fishel in 2018.

Mia Fishel of USA U16 in action during the 2nd Female Tournament ‘Delle Nazioni’ final match between Italy U16 and USA U16 on April 29, 2017 in Gradisca d’Isonzo, Italy.
Mia Fishel has represented the United States at all youth levels, and could become the first US Senior National Team player to play in Liga MX Femenil.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

“I at think my first camp I didn’t get called to Bermuda National Team camp,” Fishel says, laughing when I asked if she ever considered playing for the Gombey Warriors. “The US Women’s National Team is an iconic team at the time, beating a lot of teams, and they were the best in the world. And I knew I had the mindset that I want to be the best” in the world.

Fishel’s path to México wasn’t expected, but she knew she had gone about as far as she could with UCLA. She says she knew in the spring of 2021 that she needed to make a move, “That spring of 2021, (I knew) that my development (was) staying the same. I know the system. I know my trainings every day, I know the competition I’m going against every weekend. So I knew that I was ready to play professional soccer.”

“I didn’t know that I was going to be in Mexico at that time,” Fishel continued. Her plan was to go to the NWSL, but her rights were drafted by the Orlando Pride. The Pride however are rebuilding, which Fishel cited in an interview with Goal earlier in the year as the reason she didn’t want to go to Orlando. She kept an open mind however with an unwavering sense of self-worth. “I believe that what I deserve as a player and as a person, it will come to me. And Tigres came with everything that I wanted coming into the professional world,” Fishel says. And while the transition from playing college soccer in the US to playing professionally in México has been a lot, Fishel says she’s doing well with it all. “I think it’s because of how open minded I am with transitioning with transitions, especially with being on a national team and traveling different places like Mexico, Germany, Sweden, (and) China. I think that helped a lot with making this transition really easy for me and my mindset.”

Fishel didn’t know much about Mexican soccer prior to joining Tigres. She did know a little bit about the team. “I did know that Tigres was the the best team in Mexico though, (and) I knew that their fan base was crazy.” She’s been recognized out in public while there, something rather unthinkable in most other places. “I’ve been ran into fans anywhere I go from the mall to restaurants to walks to different places I definitely have been stopped multiple times. But it’s cool. I’m glad that I can be around you know my fans and be able to take pictures and talk to them.”

“In the US you would never see that,” Fishel says, which despite playing for one of the biggest programs in the country at one of the biggest schools in the country and in the country’s second-largest city and media capital is the experience of most soccer players, pro or amateur.

The popularity can be measured at least in part by her twitter followers. After being drafted by Orlando with the fifth pick, “my followers like went up to like, you know 200.” When the rumors that she was going to sign with Tigres started, “I got like 3k followers. And when I got announced, it was like 15k followers.”

”I knew immediately that something’s different about the fans, and how passionate they are about soccer, and (women’s) soccer, which is another reason why I wanted to come here as well.”

Mia Fishel’s arrival at Tigres sent shockwaves through soccer community on both sides of the United States and México border.
Mia Fishel’s arrival at Tigres sent shockwaves through soccer community on both sides of the United States and México border.
Tigres UANL press release

Fishel’s experience with Tigres has so far been fruitful. scoring two goals in her first five matches. She’s been able to fit into one of the most offensively talented teams, and she credits her teammates for that.

“This team has been super friendly, super welcoming to me. And I’ve also when I first came here, I talked to Uche (Uchenna Kanu) about the team, and how they are with these newcomers,” referring to Liga MX Femenil allowing two foreign-born players for the first time at the start of the 2021 Apertura. “So she was like, ‘I’ve never experienced the the warm welcome that I’ve had (at Tigres) in any of my professional teams’. And I immediately felt that, and it just made me more motivated to get on the same page as quick as possible. And to get adapted to their style of play and how I fit in that in that puzzle. And I think I’m still learning, and I’m still talking to Fanny (Stephany Mayor) and (Jackie) Ovalle and Uche about how we can play and how we can maximize our potential on the field. And I think in trainings, it’s getting better and better.”

It’s been working, with Tigres scoring 19 goals in their first eight games and sitting second on the overall table. The fans have appreciated the club’s start, and Fishel in turn appreciates the fans’ acceptance and encouragement. “I feel the love and I feel that support. And it’s been amazing so far, being here at Tigres. I know the opportunities are limitless here, and I just can’t wait to get started to prove more why I love this team and why I deserve to be playing and helping this team as much as I can.”

“I appreciate the love.”