Tigres forward Andre-Pierre Gignac has said that he would like to seek Mexican citizenship through naturalisation because he feels at home in Mexico and because his son was born in Monterrey.
Gignac, 30, left Marseille for Tigres last summer and helped his new club reach the Copa Libertadores final and win the Liga MX Apertura title. Tigres also made the CONCACAF Champions League final, although they lost to fellow Mexican side America.
Last week, they crashed out of the Mexican playoffs after losing 4-3 on aggregate in quarterfinals to bitter crosstown rivals Monterrey. His form earned him a recall to the France national team.
On Thursday, Gignac and the Euro 2016 hosts began their first summer training camp in Biarritz. Les Bleus have been drawn in Group A alongside Albania, Romania and Switzerland and they debut on June 10 vs. Romania.
Gignac has made his comments at a time when Liga MX owners are poised to pass a resolution that would permit a combined total of 10 foreigners and naturalised Mexican citizens in each first-division club. Mexico has a two-year residency requirement for football players who wish to become naturalised.
"I am very proud to be a new Mexican because my son was born in Monterrey," Gignac said during an interview conducted in both French and Spanish at the French embassy in Mexico. "I hope that within a year I can obtain Mexican citizenship as well. It would make me proud because I feel right at home here. I feel good here and so does my family. My four-year-old daughter now speaks Spanish. She has been in school for six months and she speaks very good Spanish. My entire family is very happy about that. I hope to have many more years in Monterrey and in Mexico as well."
- Gignac Andre-pierre (@10APG) May 12, 2016
Gignac added that he is proud to be an ambassador for French football.
"My intention when I decided to play in Mexico was to create visibility for both leagues. In Europe, Liga MX is not very well known and in Mexico -- unless one buys the matches [of Ligue 1] to watch Memo Ochoa [who is now in Malaga] play -- I don't think fans here know the French league. So that is why I am proud and happy to give Mexico a good image of my home country and also to provide a good image of Mexico to France as well," he said.
He said that his fellow Les Bleus always have many questions about Mexico for him, not just about football but about the country and its people.
"I always say good things because that is how I feel and I can say that this country has captivated me," he said. "I hope to open the door for other French players, not just at Tigres, but in Liga MX in general."
He added that he has friends and knows other players who are interested in coming to Liga MX "because of the quality of life and also as I have said: Here the people are very friendly and respectful. I am very happy that there are more French players who want to get involved in the Mexican league."
He said he hopes French students and coaches will follow suit.
"That is the attitude that drove me to pick this country: to open doors. I am the first French player in Liga MX. I hope to open doors for others from France who want to learn about Mexican football, about the country, its culture, it's language and it is truly because I have fallen in love with Mexico."
Liga MX owners meet on May 25-26 to determine a new limit for all players born outside of Mexico, instead of the current five foreigners and unlimited naturalised Mexicans currently allowed.
More than 30 percent of players in the Mexican League for Apertura 2015 were not born in Mexico, according to league figures.
Of the tournament's 475 players, 154 were not born in Mexico. The list includes 81 foreigners, 55 naturalised citizens and 18 players who have dual citizenship. Six teams have 10 or more players who were not born in Mexico: Tijuana, Querétaro, Cruz Azul, Atlas, America and Tigres.
Tijuana began the trend of dual-citizenship players by registering players born of Mexican parents as Mexico nationals. The club have the most non-Mexico born players in the top division.