Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A lion in need of a home

Help a Lion Find a Home

Talent is often overrated yet talent can often be overlooked! 

Even Michael Jordan was initially overlooked by high school basketball coaches. Jordan did not get bitter, Jordan got better and better and then, as they say, the rest is history. We also know of plenty players chosen in the 4th or 5th drafts that went on to make history in their sport.

Could this be happening to a lion? Read this story, and then share it. Please help this lion realize his dream! He is called the lion or “el leoncito” in Spanish. The lion’s name is Alex Mendoza, a 23-year old American Mexican. The story of Alex, the soccer center midfielder, is a story of being overlooked. I have known Alex since he was 19. We sat next to each other in a flight from Mexico City to USA. We became friends right away.  I knew then, and I am convinced now, that Alex’s story will have a great ending. It is a story worth sharing with you, readers in the USA and around the world. Please keep on reading and you will know why I believe Alex’s story is a story with a great ending yet to be unfolded. This lion has a dream, he has had plenty of struggles, and he is now primed for big victories. Let’s help Alex find a home team so he can realize the potential that lies inside him. His dream is to play in the next World Cup Soccer Championship either for the USA Team or for the Mexican National Team in 2018. The 21st FIFA Championship will be held in Russia.  Patience is a virtue and this lion, like a lion in our animal kingdom, had lots of it but now he is very hungry; a starving kind of hunger. He is now ready to start some real hunting!

We know that it is common for soccer player to have nicknames. We know who the soccer king is, by his nickname, Pelé, and not by his real name, Edson Arantes do Nascimento. I asked Alex if he had a nickname and here is what he had to say.

 “My nickname is the lion. This nickname is the one I picked up while I was a player at Pumas in Mexico City. I liked this name, my teammates saw ambition, determination, confidence and it stuck. When I am at my best and things are flowing on the field, I am a lion. I orchestrate the hunts. I am like a lion that sets the eye on one gazelle, and go for it, ignoring the slower ones nearby. Nothing can stop me, I make myself heard, and I control everything. I am the leader, the one that distributes the ball, the heartbeat, the enforcer. I carry out my responsibilities to lead by example. This is the player I was taught to be, a player like Leandro Augusto, Dario Veron, Xabi Alonso. I was developed at a power house soccer club, Pumas. The Pumas is one of the most respected clubs in México. The season before I became involved with the club I watched them play in the Copa de Liberadores championship. Pumas lost in a penalty shoot out to Boca Juniors, the best team from Argentina. I was watching, dreaming one day to be able to play at such a high level. In a setting where soccer or “fútbol” is everything, I always wanted to play in the big games. The Pumas were champions twice while I represented the club. I couldn't get minutes with the first team but made sure every training session with the first division squad I was fighting and showing I was a great young player. I was surrounded by super stars that I grew up watching in World Cups, coaches who played in World Cups, recognizing my talent and teaching me how to be a great player. My playing time and game experience came representing the Pumas.”

Since being with the Pumas, “el leoncito” has been looking for the right pack of lions to hunt in USA, Romania, Greece, Germany, and now back in the USA. This lion believes he will find the right pack of lions here, in his homeland, the USA or in another team outside the USA. When I asked him why he has not been noticed, here is what Alex had to say.

“Now I feel I'm being tested; I've learned how to deal with adversity.  This has built me to be strong.  I know where I belong. I know the level I can bring to the table. My struggles came when soccer clubs here in the USA don’t give me the time of day, not even to show my value; it’s frustrating.  I've been bouncing from team to tea, following leads looking for the right opportunity, looking for a club to give me a real opportunity. I’m looking for a team to lead, to take control, and be the face for their club; to be their lion. I know my level and I know where I belong.”


Born from an American mother and a Mexican father in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1990, the dual citizen Alex started playing soccer at the age of 4. I can see and hear how soccer has been his passion all his life. Forward 15 years, and here is what happened to Alex. 

“Within a year of graduating high school I was battling the elite players of Mexico.  Four teammates of mine represented México and Paraguay in world cup 2010.”

Could it be the cub was not quite ready to go hunting at age 19? He believes the right pack of lions to go hunting is out there. I believe this is the case of “el Leoncito.” I wanted to provoke this lion so we got into a very serious recent conversation during a lunch at a Bob Evans restaurant in his hometown of Harrisburg. I asked the lion, what are you really made of? What is really inside of you? He started telling me about his character strengths. I saw his demeanor change and with the eyes of a “leoncito” here is what he had to say. My hope is that the following reminds you of a lion soon to become Lion King?
1.       Hunger and Ambition. I’m always hungry for more knowing I can achieve great things and ultimately get to where I want to be as a soccer player. I am always learning and I know I can always be better as a player and person. I have a very open mind and I take the entire advice that coaches and mentors share with me.

2.       Confidence. I have this with me in everything that I do and when I’m at my best as a person and player when I have the highest level of it.

3.       Humble. I know I am a very talented person and as a player extremely gifted, but I keep my head down and always work hard.

4.       Optimistic and Friendly. I am always polite and show I am a kind person in everyday life, as a teammate I am the same and show respect for all my teammates and coaches. Divided locker rooms are never positive so I show I am there for all my teammates. Anything can happen if I continue to believe in myself. In difficult times I keep a positive mindset.

5.       Team Player. I love playing and competing and its special when as a group we fight and work to get results achieving great things as a team as well as individual accomplishments.

6.       Concentration and Determination. I am always focused on my goals and dreams and will not stop for anything. I’ve been making progress for years and I am set on getting to where I believe I belong. I am always focused 100% when I am chasing my dream. I know how to leave everything else aside while I have to play, in my training, in my preparation.

7.       Mental Toughness. I believe I had an average level of mental toughness as a young player. Recently I have been tested to the fullest and I will not break. I know my mental toughness is at the highest level now. I am a more complete player now.
Here is what the lion shared at the end of our talk:

“How can it be that with these experiences I can’t get some team to stop and look at me? I am not the world’s greatest player, but I’m blessed and possess qualities few players have.”

Please share this story with all your friends until the story gets to a lion chaser.

Imagine you being the one that helped this lion find the right pack to hunt!

 Be blessed and be a blessing to others.
Carlos Fontana, President of Phalanx
Co-author of the book Follow to Lead (The 7 Principles to Being a Great Follower)
Author of the book PRICELESS (Sixty-Six Simple Stories of Reflection, Love, and Legacy)

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