How does a boy from Peru, now a podcast host in the States, become a passionate Aston Villa fan?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, from Paddington Bear… to Aston Villa.
How does someone from Peru, who lives in New York, become an Aston Villa fan?
Luis Miguel Echegaray is a podcast host for CBS Sports in the US.
He’s an avid Aston Villa fan.
“I left Peru when I was 11, 12 years old. And just like Paddington Bear, I moved to England…”
“You know I’ve always been in love with the game obviously, my Dad introduced it to me in Peru… growing up I would go to games in Lima and obviously appreciated the Peruvian national team etcetera.Luis Miguel Echegaray
So how does a boy, who only speaks broken English, make friends in an English playground?
Luis Miguel describes himself as being “culture shocked.”
And you can imagine why – when you’ve moved to a completely different continent at the age of 11 because of political uncertainty in your native country, and you have to make friends all over again.
But he found a way to connect with others. And that was through the common language of football.
When you’re simply kicking a ball, it’s more difficult for things to get lost in translation.
It was then that he first encountered the love of his life. Aston Villa.
“At break time, in the playground, we would play and I’ll never forget it…this kid…I made friends with this guy called Mark and he was a huge Aston Villa fan. And he said…you know…he picked me for his side to play, and he saw that I had a pretty good left foot so you know, we started talking and I didn’t have a team to support at that time. And he introduced me to Villa. I went to his house and in his room and there was that wall just adorned with Villa stars. Dalian Atkinson and Paul McGrath and I was just like in love.”Luis Miguel Echegaray
Luis Miguel says that Aston Villa became the narrative for his immigrant story.
And because of Aston Villa, he became more connected to his new home in England. His support for a football club helped him stay grounded through difficult times.
“I went to Boarding School, said goodbye to Mark and my mother passed away during that time and still I remember… even the day of the funeral, I wanted to just go back to school and be surrounded by my Villa memorabilia because it was the thing that connected me and you know…that to me is why Villa will always be more than just a football club, you know.”Luis Miguel Echegaray
And this wasn’t just a love affair from afar.
When Luis Miguel became a teenager, he would get the train up to Birmingham and watch every single home match.
He’s never actually lived in Birmingham. But Villa Park feels like home.
“I don’t have to be from Birmingham to absolutely love every single brick and mortar of that club, it’s amazing.”Luis Miguel Echegaray
It makes sense that Luis Miguel would go on to base his career around football… when the game itself saved him from isolation as a young boy.
He now sees football as a global game which can unite people from diverse backgrounds.
“And, you know, that’s why the World Cup is ultimately the best tournament because you get to experience all these amazing cultures. And that’s the best part about it. It’s not really the goal, or the pass, or whatever… or the result that matters… of course it matters to your everyday fan… but really, you really peel the onion and what’s more important is the community that supports these clubs. And that to me is the most important thing.”Luis Miguel Echegaray
Villa has been the constant in Luis Miguel’s life, so you can see how those ties to the club have become so strong.
The football club was the bridge between him and a totally alien new world.
Even as a Peruvian living across the Atlantic in New York.
Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.