The French Tiger of Mexico

According to the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), the Tigers population on earth is under a threat of distinction. Recent research reckons that only 4,000 of them left, worldwide. 

Most of them are situated in South-East Asia & China. After many years of a decline in their numbers, the WWF estimate that the decline has reached to a blessed halt, although there are no signs of population growth yet. Although the natural habitat of tigers is usually in Asia, this article will focus on a rare sub-species, a sole protagonist: A French tiger that is based in Mexico, and apparently is close to claim a serious landmark. Andre Pierre Gignac.

A rare specie of a tiger. Gignac lead the way for Tigres UANL (Getty Images)

A rare specie of a tiger. Gignac lead the way for Tigres UANL (Getty Images)

Gignac is not a typical footballer.
Growing up in a poor neighborhood to a gypsy family in the south of France, nothing would suggest that one day young Andre Pierre would be an Idol for the Tigres UANL fans, and will be on the verge of becoming the club’s top scorer. 

After Starting his Career in Martigues, Gignac ventured to the Bretagne region, joining Lorient. His next chapter in his Career, was Toulouse, was Gignac has managed to fulfill his potential and even finished as the best goal scorer in Ligue 1 on his second season.
During his time there, Gignac has also been called for the first time to the French National team. 

After the World Cup in South Africa 2010, he made his big step forward. He returned back home to the south of France, but this time with the biggest club in the country, Olympique Marseille. Gignac continued with his good form at the Velodrome and finished with 77 goals in 188 games for the Blue & White. Things were going good, as he resumed his spell with Les Blues as well at the time. But then something strange happened.

Gignac has finished his contract with Marseille, and the logical assumption was that he would be looking for a well-paid contract in a big & competitive European team, maybe even in the English Premier League. However, the reality was very different.
Gignac flew to a vacation in Cancun, and in a coincidence (or not), he stayed in the same hotel where the Mexican League draft took place.

Let’s slow down for a moment and explain what the “Mexican league Draft” is all about: This draft is basically a football conference that lasts a couple of days, where all the Professional coaching staff and management of the Liga MX clubs, are trading players between their own teams. Obviously, there are some transfers that are agreed before, but the transfers are officially being made during the draft days.

Back to Gignac. The player’s presence at the same hotel was initially classified as a “coincidence”, and despite some rumors in the Mexican press, nobody thought that Gignac will really play in Mexico. Back at the time, he was 29, in the peak of his career and a move to large to a major European team was the natural next move.
No wonder that several weeks afterwards, when the Frenchman signed for Tigres, it was seen more as a surprise. An Illusion maybe. 

The Mexican League is a very strong competition, with many international players (mainly from Latin countries) and according to some - it is among the top three best leagues in the Americas. 

Yet, a European star in the levels of Gignac is rare signing in terms of the Mexican League. Generally, there are very few European players who join Mexican teams, and even the few that are there, are usually Spanish that enjoys a good salary in a wonderful country with their common mother tongue. 

Although the Tigres fanatics were surprised, Gignac arrived in Mexico with some knowledge of Spanish, but more importantly, he showed some cultural understanding and adapted very well, and fast, to the Mexican lifestyle.
As a gypsy, Gignac considered himself as a regular person and doesn’t have a typical “football star attitude”. As in his private life where he used to go with his family to sell stuff in the flea-markets around south of France, he is a hard worker that sees himself as equal to others also on the football pitch. True, Gignac is probably the highest earner in the Liga MX, but his attitude is still a relatively modest one. 

Gignac does know that he is the star of the team, and one of the biggest names in Mexico. His performances are also consistently good and he is the go-to-guy for the team from Estadio del Volcan. 

How big is his impact? Even French newspapers like Le Figaro or the L’equipe started to follow his adventures in Mexico and continuing to follow up to this day. Mexican football never got regular coverage in France before his arrival. But the “Gignac impact” is not limited to media outlets. Several French players have joined the league following his move. The Mexican league is a rich stage, but it doesn’t compete with Middle Eastern countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the big spenders of China.
The fact that French players chose to move to Mexico instead of to those countries, just highlight the huge impact he has. 

As an outcome of his form, Gignac was rumored to move to the Middle East or China or to go back to France with Monaco, but he decided not to. Despite reportedly having a few offers, Gignac decided to stay in Nuevo Leon, declaring many times about his love for the city and the fans, making his legendary status definitive.
In addition, two of his children were born in Mexico, and he applied for Mexican citizenship for them. He is very accessible and open to the fans, so this combination creates a true love story between the French striker and locals.

Gignac is about to become even more historic with Tigres, as he will be the Tigers’ top scorer ever. The Frenchman has already notched 99 goals with for the club, second only to Tomas Boy with 102 goals. He won three Championships, three super cups and was the top goalscorer in two different tournaments. Although they hate to admit that, even the fans of arch-rival Rayados de Monterrey, recognize Gignac as one of the biggest players ever to play in Mexico. 

Despite the decline of Tigers numbers worldwide in the last several years, thanks to the passion and love of a French gypsy to the city of Monterrey and its people, there is a unique phenomenon accruing. The Tigers of Mexico are not declining. They are on the rise.