In the Liga Mexicana de Futbol Rapido, Mexico’s professional league of arena soccer, Fernando Gatica is something of a rarity.
The Argentinean is one of the only international players to ever compete in the LMFR. “Maybe if you say my full name they won’t know who it is,” says Gatica. “They actually say, ‘The Argentine Fernando Gatica,’ or ‘El Argentino’.”
Gatica is an American permanent resident, having lived here for 17 years. He played three years for the Detroit Waza Flo during the years when they made two Ron Newman Cup finals appearances and won the US Open Arena Cup. After some time away from the indoor game he reemerged last year with the Harrisburg Heat, where he had eight goals and three assists in 17 games.
The LMFR season started in April and ends with the semifinals and final on August 4-5. There are 10 teams competing in two divisions, Zona Norte (North) and Zona Occidente (West). Gatica plays for Deportivo Don Roge, which plays in Sabinas, a city of about 50,000. Sabinas is situated in the state of Coahuila and is a little over a two hour drive from the Texas border.
Don Roge, who completed their regular season by finishing first in the Zona Norte with an 8-1-1 record, is owned by Daniel Morales who also owns the team’s field and the Cielito Mio restaurant, whose logo is prominently displayed on the field.
The team will be idle now until the semifinals start on August 4. Don Roge will face Xolos Jalisco who finished second in the Zona Occidente. Occidente winner Diablos Macaaray will face one of three teams fighting for the last spot in the Norte.
The LMFR has always been shrouded in mystery for American non-Spanish speaking fans, but its influence is undeniable. Teams like Guerreros Guadalajara and Sidekicks Mexico competed against PASL-Pro teams in the North American Championships and the Monterrey Flash and Saltillo Rancho Seco originated in the LMFR.
The LMFR has also produced players like Wilo Martinez, Miguel Vaca, Jesus Flores, and Omar Tapia. Gatica’s Don Roge team features Vaca, Tapia, Diego Reynoso, Edgar “Chapa” Flores, and Gustavo Rosales.
The pay scale in the LMFR is disparate. Some teams are basically university club teams and other teams are fully professional. Players can make up to $8,000 pesos (about $440) per game.
For Gatica, who is single and wasn’t doing any camps this offseason, the chance to play in Mexico was exciting. “I don’t have any kids and I’m not married so I’m free to travel around and what’s better to travel and play soccer, so I couldn’t say no,” said Gatica.
Could any of his Don Roge teammates be the next to cross over into the MASL? Gatica, who is currently a free agent in the MASL, thinks midfielder Jesus Oyervides, who is 6th in the Zona Norte with 11 goals or 19-year old Tito Reyes could make an impact in the MASL.
Could we see more MASL players competing in the LMFR next year? “If they have nothing else to do they should definitely come play here,” Gatica says. “I would play here again. It’s been a great experience.”