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Flamin’ Hot Chicharitos: A Javier Hernández Conversation

The LA Galaxy star and two-time Premier League champion spoke with Boardroom about Michael Bay, soccer versus fútbol, Tim Howard, and the paradoxical nature of the World Cup.

You’ve seen the Frito Lay commercial. You’ve seen it several times. You’ve seen Peyton Manning towering over David Beckham as the latter blitzes a bag of Lays like Manchester United’s Class of ’92 springing a counterattack. You’ve seen the latest revival of the simple, eloquent, often petty dialectic that won’t die:

IS IT SOCCER OR IS IT FOOTBALL?

Well, spoiler alert, it’s fútbol. So sayeth celebrated striker Javier Hernández — fans of LA Galaxy, the Mexico national team, or Manchester’s Red Devils know him as Chicharito — as he stares down longtime USMNT and Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard and fires a penalty kick that places the American hero’s beloved Cheetos in the most brutal, demoralizing sort of danger.

Or is it pronounced “Chetos”?

When Boardroom caught up with Chicharito this week, suffice to say there was a dense morass of footykicking ideology to hack through in order to find at least one universal truth at the heart of the matter. Come for the Flamin’ Hot discourse, stay for the veteran goal-scorer’s thoughts on taking direction from Michael Bay (!), how playing in the World Cup presents a sneaky sort of paradox, maturing as a businessman, and his big prediction for Argentina vs. France in the 2022 World Cup final.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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SAM DUNN: Is this your first go-round with Frito Lay, or had you worked with them before?

JAVIER “CHICHARITO” HERNÁNDEZ: Yes, I did a little bit [with them] because of collaboration that I’m doing with PepsiCo, so I had a relationship, but then this opportunity came with the commercial. I was so, so excited to be part of it, the narrative was gonna be on the commercial, the impact that I knew it was gonna have — that’s still happening — and then we’re gonna see it on Saturday and on Sunday.

USA people have a little bit of trouble that they have a sport that has the same name as the one that you play with the feet, you know? I had a blast of a time with Michael Bay, my scenes with Tim Howard, all of the people who were involved, it was amazing.

SD: You didn’t overlap with Tim Howard at Man United, did you?

JH: No, we play against [each other] and I score some goals against him, and then we play against the national teams as well. We [had] never been playing together or something like that, but I’ve been very close with him in that sense because I’ve been seeing him so much.

I remember when I started my first year in Manchester, I think we [caught] up in two or three, flights from London to Mexico City or from Mexico City, something like that. We had the same flight and we just have some [conversation], we saw each other. So, we knew each other, of course, because of our job. But as well, we’ve been a little bit different because we faced [each other] so many times, and then by coincidences we spend a little bit [more] time.

Catch Chicarito and Tim Howard starting at the 1:08 mark.

SD: What’s the best goal you ever scored against Tim?

JH: I don’t know if it’s “the best.” It’s not just only the most beautiful one or the most important one; we have so [many] factors, but it’s the header that I scored my first season against him, against Everton in Old Trafford. The last-minute header from a very good cross from Antonio Valencia. Because that victory, I think it put us three points ahead of Chelsea in the title race. It was so valuable and so important for our season, to consummate it in a very positive way to win the trophy.

SD: So you already had this history with Tim, but I can only assume that doing the commercial was the first time that you got to meet Michael Bay.

JH: Yeah, the first time. You can feel him; you can know why he’s one of the greatest directors of all, man. His energy. He wants to do things in his way, but he doesn’t want just to do things because he has to do them. He wants to make the scene that he has seen his brain until it’s great, so that commitment is very good.

I spent just three hours with him. That is not that much, but you can notice that I have a very good time with him in the scenes, in the ways that he wants me to say the last phrase — for example, instead of “Cheetos,” it’s “Chetos.” Flamin’ Hot. And then the soccer versus fútbol. I had so much fun, because you have a good director, you have a team next to you, we catch up and we have conversations, and then it’s a very, very funny but very real commercial, too about sport. It was a blast.

SD: Now that Michael Bay has directed you, do you have the acting bug? Is it time for a conversation with him about appearing in his next blockbuster?

JH: [Laughs] No, no, no, no. I mean, thankfully, I’ve been doing a lot of commercials, [but] never with a director of his [level], but no, I never thought about doing that. I mean, I’m more inclined [toward] streaming, for example. Video games. And even then, if I want to do stuff, then you never know. I have been modeling some stuff for some campaigns, I’ve been doing commercials, I’ve been doing a lot of stuff, but acting, there’s no bug yet. You never know.

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SD: You’ve made some money over the course of your career. Do you view yourself as an investor at this point? An entrepreneur?

JH: I try to do that even in the early days of my career. I’m gonna put as an example LeBron James — of course, he’s an athlete and I’m an athlete, and that’s the main job. It’s the main, so source for everything and it’s the one that has all your concentration and your life [revolving] around of it. But then, we are more than athletes. If you want to be an entrepreneur or you wanna be a streamer without taking [on] the responsibilities that you already have, the main source [gets] affected by other stuff.

You need to have a foundation, you need to have a source, a very deep root — in my case it’s football. But from there, anyone who starts investing, we have to learn how to invest. You have to learn how to take care of the money that you earn in any jobs around the world. So, for myself, you start doing a lot of stuff that in my country, specifically in Latin America, it’s [a] very bad view. It’s like, ‘you need to be just one thing in your life and that’s it. You cannot be three things because they cannot see that you can be a good businessman.’ You can be a good soccer player and you can be another thing.

A good streamer, for example — ‘No, you cannot, you cannot handle that in your life.’ Why not? Of course, I can organize. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of commitment, but of course I can. Why not? I’m not saying I’m the greatest, because that’s another part, if you want to be the greatest of the greatest of the great. I don’t want to be the greatest right-now streamer, but I want to be good. I want to be one of the greatest and one of the best of the MLS, so I go into it. And as a businessman, I just want to be a good businessman, investor, whatever. So that narrative, that’s something that I try to start changing a little bit, and with examples like LeBron James, of course you’re an athlete. Of course I know I’m a soccer player, but I’m more than that. I am more than more than that without making everything [interfere with] my job.

SD: I want to ask about the World Cup. Who are the players, the teams, and the moments that you think you’ll remember most from this year’s tournament?

JH: Ooh, man, there’s been so much players and so much surprises, you know, with Croatia getting in the place that they got — even though they got into the final in the last World Cup, no one gave them the [credit] that they deserve. Morocco, for example, in the place that they got, as well as USA in a group that people thought was gonna be more like England and Wales. So, I think it’s very difficult to say [just] one thing, but what I think has our minds right now is Lionel Messi in [his] last World Cup, arguably the best of all time and, this being his last World Cup and to try to get a World Cup for his country so he can be like Maradona or even better. That narrative is the one that probably has more of our attention.

France as well on the other side with Kylian Mbappé — he is the present and the future of a generation, and he wants to become as well one of the greatest.

SD: What is it like when you’re walking out onto the pitch in a World Cup atmosphere as opposed to any other atmosphere? You’ve lived this with the Mexico national team — what do you recall the most vividly bout those experiences?

JH: I think in my career, what I learned [is] it’s just only my path, my career, my opinion in the ways that I handle and manage some situation. It’s very paradoxical. You know why? Because, of course, you can feel the energy. Of course, you can feel that the whole world [is] into it. In the ones that I’ve been to, [for] the country that, that is hosting the World Cup, it’s everything. The energy, the news, everything is just about talking about that because it has a lot of exposure, right? But then, paradoxical [because] there’s another football match. Another XI against XI. And if you are there, it is because you have the same chances as anyone to win.

We show that in the last World Cup when we won in the first game against Germany 1-0 that anything is possible. So, it’s a game. Everything in life is how you manage the energy about it. In some stages, the energy is higher and you can vibe it even higher and more intense, but how you manage it is the importance of it. And then there’s other ones — imagine a preseason friendly match, closed doors. It doesn’t have the same pressure as a semifinal at the World Cup, but the intention, the willingness, the investment that you need to put in that game to be better is the same. How you can motivate the same in a friendly preseason closed-door game as how you can handle [not] getting so much emotions because of the pressure and the motivation and the sound of a semifinal in the World Cup.

That’s the trick. That’s the trick. It’s how you manage those two, because in the end, it sounds simple, but it’s the way that it is. It’s one more football match against XI with the same referees, with the same rules. With more fans with more noise, but it’s just noise. I try always to be here, even if it’s a friendly match, how I can level up to play the same way as if it’s a World Cup, how I can know myself to be effective.

SD: This tournament is going to be over on Sunday, Dec. 18, and then it’s right back to looking ahead to the MLS season. Particularly knowing that LA Galaxy’s Trafico rivalry with LAFC is better than it’s ever been, what are you looking forward to and what should fans be looking forward to in 2023?

JH: Looking forward, I think it’s gonna be even more improvements. The expansion of our organizations. The exposure as well, it’s amazing, with the new [broadcast] deals and how people can be easier connected to watch games; you can watch it even from your phone. I think you’re gonna have the same experience and even some better experiences. And talking about the LA Galaxy, still the season hasn’t started and they’re in this transfer stuff. Hopefully, they can get good players.

We’re gonna get stronger for sure. As an LA Galaxy captain and player, I’ll tell you that my mindset is a hundred percent to try to do the same stuff as the past two years: trying to qualify and trying to look for the championship, because that’s, that’s what LA Galaxy deserves. That’s what the best organization of the US [has] to be — fighting for titles, because that’s the least that this organization has to do. So hopefully, we can qualify again for another playoffs this season, and then we can fight for the trophy.

SD: Last question. France vs. Argentina. 2022 World Cup Final. Messi vs. Mbappé. Who’s winning the whole thing?

JH: It’s gonna be a very electric and a very fun final to watch, and I think we all are happy to see Argentina and France in a final. It’s gonna get a lot of attention, but I am a little bit more inclined for Argentina to win it.

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About The Author
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn
Sam Dunn is the Managing Editor of Boardroom. Before joining the team, he was an editor and multimedia talent for several sports and culture verticals at Minute Media and an editor, reporter, and site manager at SB Nation. A specialist in content strategy, copywriting, and SEO, he has additionally worked as a digital consultant in the corporate services, retail, and tech industries. He cannot be expected to be impartial on any matter regarding the Florida Gators or Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter @RealFakeSamDunn.