Galaxy’s biggest star, Chicharito, brings his celebrity to Soldier Field

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez is in town to face the Fire, who acquired their own big name in Xherdan Shaqiri.

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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and the LA Galaxy are visiting the Fire.

AP Photos

There’s a lot more that goes into being a high-profile and big-money Designated Player than just suiting up and performing on the field. For certain players, there are higher expectations, such as becoming the face of the franchise and attracting more fans to matches.

That’s true for Fire attacker Xherdan Shaqiri and even more so for LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who are scheduled to face each other Saturday night at Soldier Field in front of a crowd expected to be at least 25,000.

Hernandez, 33, is unquestionably the most famous active Mexican soccer player. Because of his charisma, production and name recognition, Hernandez long had been a dream target for MLS before he joined the Galaxy ahead of the 2020 season. A celebrity player, it wouldn’t be a surprise if fans turned out in Hernandez’s jersey Saturday just to cheer him on even though the Fire are at home.

That would be nothing new for Hernandez, who has learned to take everything in stride despite the immense pressure he has lived under for years.

During a lengthy answer on handling the fame, scrutiny and everything else that comes with being him, Hernandez said he asks more of himself than others. In fact, he said that he doesn’t feel like a celebrity and that money and fame are just tools in life that can be helpful, but not always.

“People think that when you get famous and you get money, your life is so fun. They don’t know that we all are humans, that we all have our questions,” Hernandez said. “We all have our own problems and that we all need to deal with a lot of stuff. We are humans in the end. We shouldn’t be measured [by] fame, [by] celebrity.”

As of Wednesday, Chicharito had 8.8 million Twitter followers and another 5.5 million on Instagram. He has spent time with world-famous clubs Guadalajara Chivas, Manchester United and Real Madrid, not to mention making 109 appearances and scoring 52 times for the Mexican national team.

But beyond the name recognition, Hernandez views himself as just a person doing a job he’s passionate about, and that doesn’t make him better or more valuable than anybody else. Soccer, he said, has been a part of him since he was inside his mother’s belly. He has things he’s proud of, he has his “light” and his “shadow” and he stressed that we all have one life to live and should enjoy it while trying to grow and having good intentions.

“We all are unique, we all are special, we all have greatness in ourselves, we all have our demons in our mental health,” Hernandez said. “We all are dealing with situations. I don’t like to compare myself to anything.”

Shaqiri, who will be a game-time decision because of a lingering calf issue, is the Fire’s biggest signing since Bastian Schweinsteiger in 2017. The Fire already have put his celebrity to good use, plastering his likeness on city buses with the headline “CHICAGO’S WINNINGEST FOOTBALLER” and an image of the major trophies he has won in Europe.

When he was asked about the ads, Shaqiri enjoyed the question but shifted to a different goal besides seeing his face on public transportation.

“I was surprised and I was happy to see it,” a laughing Shaqiri said. “You can see the excitement here, how big [it is]. You can see all the trophies. I hope I can bring American trophies to this club, and we can [take] pictures together with American trophies, too.”

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