From Tragedy to “Golden Chicharito”

By | April 24, 2015

Last week, Carlos Reyes Stoneham wrote a wonderful post detailing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s unfortunate issues on Real Madrid, including his almost-permanent relegation to the bench, potential bumps he could face once his loan to Real Madrid expires, and his strained relationship with both Real and Manchester United.  However, a few days later, Hernandez scored the game-winning goal in Real’s 1-0 derbi madrileño victory over Atlético Madrid in the 88th minute, rapidly garnering praise, adulation, and nicknames such as “The Great Unexpected Hero” or, my favorite, “The Golden Chicharito” around Spain’s capital.  Carlos updated his post accordingly, but the goal is an absolute must-see, especially with a beautiful assist from Cristiano Ronaldo.  It can be found at the link below, since ESPNFC does not allow embeddable videos:

While watching the goal live, and having read Carlos’ post beforehand, I couldn’t help but feel even more invested in Hernandez’s tally than I usually feel while watching Real Madrid score.  Yes, I was happy my team was advancing to the semifinals of the Champions League, one step closer to their Undecima, but at the same time, I was even more happy because it was Hernandez who had gotten us there.  Not the injured Bale or Benzema; not the hot James; not even Cristiano, who, had he not been all-but trampled by Atlético defenders before reaching the net, had probably scored the goal himself.  As Hernandez said in his post game interview, although the game “was a team effort,” “it was my turn to score.”

But OF COURSE there was some backlash to Hernandez’s celebration, specifically by former Arsenal (and Barcelona) star Thierry Henry.  Admittedly, Hernandez did celebrate pretty intensely—a classic knee-dive into the pitch, arms out, taking in the crowd.  He felt pain in his right foot almost immediately afterwards, and cried tears of emotion as he was receiving treatment on the bench.  However, Henry criticized Hernandez for treating the goal “like he won the World Cup”:

“He had a couple of chances in the game before that but I can tell you he can thank Ronaldo tonight. I know he went on to celebrate alone and everything but he can thank Ronaldo. For me, he has to. That is, for me, Ronaldo’s goal. What I don’t like after is [he celebrated] like he won the World Cup. Turn around and celebrate with Ronaldo.”

It’s obvious that Henry didn’t read Carlos’ post, and realized how much Hernandez’s goal meant beyond the already enormous implications of breaking Real’s 3-game winless streak against Atlético to reach the Final Four of the Champion’s League.  For once, this moment wasn’t about Ronaldo: it was about a brilliant player who had finally gotten the chance to prove his worth under the brightest of lights in Santiago Bernebeu, and more than executed when the opportunity arose.  I guarantee that the first thought going through Hernandez’s head wasn’t “sweet goal WHERE’S RONALDO?”—just like how Henry’s first thought going through his head when he scored his 400th goal definitely wasn’t “cool now WHERE’S DAX MCCARTNY?”

…just like how Cristiano acted (a bit like “he won the World Cup”, if you will) against Atlético last year…

…which recevied so much attention that Cristiano now has his own “shirtless celebration” in FIFA 15…

…and is only one of his many trademark celebrations, so much so that he ended his Ballon d’Or acceptance speech with one of his signature yelps:

The point is, Hernandez deserved the 88th minute, charged with more emotion than Henry and many other pundits realized.  Despite his gorgeous assist, that moment wasn’t Ronaldo’s—he’s had plenty already.  The only one making a big deal and souring Hernandez’s moment was Henry himself, reaching for a controversial backstory to talk about as a commentator to garner attention.  But wasn’t Hernandez’s backstory, his transformation from “tragedy” to “golden” in mere days, enough?

3 thoughts on “From Tragedy to “Golden Chicharito”

  1. Carlos Reyes Stoneham

    Awesome post Danielle, I’m so glad that you followed up on the Chicharito situation after the Real Madrid vs. Atletico game last Wednesday. I definitely agree with you about Henry’s reaction to this situation, I really don’t think he realized what a huge deal this was for Chicharito, Henry is really one of the best players of all time and, in my opinion, can’t really relate to the situation that Chicharito is dealing with. Thanks for writing this post, I think you have some great points that some people may not have thought of.

  2. Anthony Russo

    Great read, Danielle! This is one of the only countless examples of how passionate singular sporting moments can be to a larger audience. Nothing is better than seeing a player overcome adversity, and the moment is even that much better when it occurs on a stage as big as the UEFA Champions League.

    In regards to Henry’s comments, I think that you are 100% correct in criticizing Henry as a hypocrite. I particularly liked your parallel to Henry’s celebration after he scored his 400th career goal off of a beautiful assist by McCarty. It bothers me that Henry is trying to take away from a moment as significant as this, especially because he has no investment as to how Javi Hernandez celebrates. Sure – it would be cool to see the often-shadowed assist guys get notoriety (particularly when it’s as beautiful an assist as Ronaldo’s was) but I think that Hernandez’s recent struggles with Real allow him to celebrate in any way he pleases. I can only imagine the amount of emotion he must have felt after scoring that goal – with the strike of a foot he is able to nearly wash away years of anguish and adversity. I feel that a moment such like this happens so quickly that one isn’t even truly able to comprehend what they are doing until they are able to look back at it in retrospect.

    I wish that Henry didn’t openly criticize Hernandez the way he did, but I hope that Hernandez enjoys this moment to its fullest. These moments are what make sport transcend the ordinary.

  3. Helena Wang

    Great post Danielle! I am a Real Madrid fan too, and Chicharito being on the team has always been both great and sad to witness as a soccer fan. Chicharito is clearly a great striker, who really helped the Mexican national team advance far in both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. However, like Carlos mentioned, him being on Real Madrid is truly a disservice to him when there is such a talented team that he is considered a bench player.

    I wasn’t able to catch the game, but it was such a great moment to hear that it was Chicharito who scored the goal that put Real Madrid through to the semi-finals. Like you have said, he deserved that 88th minute and every emotion he felt was completely justified. He has waited patiently for his turn to shine, and to be able to do so under the incredible pressure and on the biggest stage in soccer history… it is no wonder he cried and celebrated so passionately.


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