Football’s ability to capture and connect people from different parts of the world, different backgrounds, languages, and cultures has always fascinated me. So, when I came across this heartfelt piece discussing one man’s lifelong love affair with Aston Villa, I had to speak with him. The man in question is a Peruvian Villa fanatic whose love affair began in the south of England and continues to this day in New York, Luis Miguel Echegaray. Luis is host of the Qué Golazo Podcast for CBS Sports, an insider on their Champions League coverage and a football writer with some illustrious publications on his CV, and he was kind enough to spend some time with me discussing his deep affection for Aston Villa.

LM: “For those that don’t already know you, tell us about yourself and your background in football journalism and podcasts?”

LME: “I actually wanted to be and spent a long time as an actor, I studied at Roehampton University in London and attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I spent 15 years in the profession, TV shows, Broadway, and even a film called ‘Mutant Chronicles’. Villa and football had been a constant obsession throughout and in 2015 I decided to make a change. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to write for Vice, Sports Illustrated, The Guardian, before landing my perfect gig on CBS.”

Luis passion, dedication and bravery shone through in our conversation, I couldn’t help but be impressed by and have the utmost respect for a change in career direction such as this.

LM: “I discovered you via Twitter and your article about finding Villa. Can you talk us through your article and how you discovered the club?”

LME: I’d wanted to write the article for a long time, but this past year has been a tough time for everybody, and it felt like the right time to do it.

As an immigrant kid living on the outskirts of London who loved football, I wanted to find a team, but the London teams and the obvious choices like Manchester United and Liverpool didn’t appeal to or connect with me. We would play football in the playground and my best friend Mark picked me for his team and told me we were Villa. At the time I didn’t know what Villa was or what this meant. The real moment for me was as soon as I saw Mark’s room with Villa stuff all over, Paul McGrath on the walls, I was instantly hooked and have been ever since. I’ve suffered a lot of tragedy in my life, my mother passed away whilst I was at school and my father in my early 20’s, but Villa has always been my constant. Aston Villa is the story of my life. This is what people don’t always realise, football is about life and community, it is so much more than a game.”

LM: “Tell me about your AVFC heroes, players that have had the most influence on you?”

LME: “Obviously now there are players like Jack Grealish, but for me, Dwight Yorke. I was lucky enough to see Dwight Yorke at his Villa peak, what he did for us when Brian Little rescued us! And  just think what we could have done if he had stayed! So, if Jack Grealish leaves, I am ready for it, I didn’t speak to anyone for 2 weeks after Yorke left.  Dwight Yorke was at his peak when I was at my happiest in England and I loved what he represented as a black player.”

LM: “I always like to get a gauge from overseas supporters of their matchday experience? What is a typical matchday like for you?”

LME: “It’s important to remember that in the US there’s so much availability for Villa games and English football, within reason you can stream and access whatever games you like. Even without COVID, unless I’m physically at a game I don’t tend to be the kind of person who goes to bars, perhaps when I was at University. Now I like to watch the game alone, just me and Villa and give it my full attention.

LM: “Finally, what are your reflections on the season so far and your expectations for the rest of it?”

LME: “What’s happened this year has been amazing, but as far as our expectations are concerned, I think we need to be careful what we wish for. Something like the Champions League would be amazing, incredible, but are we ready for it? We’re 100% a top half team and the Europa League could be realistic but the best way for us to progress is step by step.

One regret is the situation with the FA Cup. It was an incredible performance by the young team, but it felt like an opportunity this year for a trophy.”

LM: “Luis, thanks so much for your time it’s been a pleasure!”

LME “Thanks and Up the Villa!”

You can find Luis on Twitter @imechgaray and his work via @QueGolazoPod, @UCLonCBSSports and @CBSSportsHQ

Thanks for reading. Liam.

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