By Walter Broeckx
1. Sanchez grew up at Tocopilla a small town north of the capital Santiago de Chile. The name Tocopilla means in fact ‘The Devils corner’. Devilish because the little town is divided in two parts in between a big power plant and a saltpeper factory so not the most healthy environment to grow up. Yet Alexis loves his little town to bits and still talks of his youth in terms of being the happiest child in the world.
2. His first nickname that he got when he was 10 years old was squirrel. Over there they called him Dilla from Ardilla (squirrel). He got that name because he was so fast and played bare feet and when the ball flew on a roof he was the one that climbed upon roofs and trees to get the ball back. From playing bare feet he developed his running/jumping style. If you watch him closely you can still see that he has a different running style. His second nickname was El Nino Maravilla or the Wonder Kid. That was the nickname from the supporters where he started his professional career Colo Colo.
3. Alexis loves his little town to bits as we said before and the love from his fellow Tocopillarians (I don’t know if this is correct) is mutual. His image can be seen on various walls in the city. Street artists paint his picture on every wall available. They sure are proud of their little boy. In Tocopilla they have a new years tradition in which they burn dolls of the people they admire. Usually they burn dolls of people who they hate in most parts of the world but not in Tocopilla. They do it with the people the love and admire. And so each new year the most burned doll is Alexis.
4. Alexis grew up in very poor conditions without a father. His mother Marina had two jobs to feed the family. One job was selling fish and the other was cleaning in the school of her 4 children. His mother couldn’t buy him football shoes so when he started playing at a club he had to borrow shoes from other players to be able to play. It was the mayor of Tocopilla who bought him his first real football shoes when he was 15.
5. Little Alexis earned a few bucks by keeping an eye on parked cars and by doing tricks in the street. Making summersaults in the streets. In those days he promised his mother that he would drag them out of their poverty. “If I become a professional I will be able to buy you a house” he said. When Udinese bought him at the age of 17 he immediately had a house built for his mother.
6. Alexis is in fact a very shy person. No glamour for him. He spends most of his holidays in his home town. And up to now he usually went home for Christmas to play Santa Claus. He hires a truck, stuffs it full with presents and gives them away to the people from Tocopilla. Alas I’m afraid this tradition has come to an end since he has no winter break in England. He also paid for 5 football pitches in his home town and insisted on being there for the official opening.
7. Alexis speaks Spanish. But not the Spanish we know. He speaks it with his Tocopillan accent. And it seems to be rather incomprehensible at times. Even for other Spanish speaking people. Now he doesn’t say much but even when he did speak most of his team mates at Barcelona couldn’t understand him. The one at Barcelona who could understand him was fellow South American and best player of the world Messi. So Messi made it his job to translate the Tocopillan version of Spanish in to understandable Spanish for his team mates.
8. When he was 17 he played his first match for his national team. But before that he had to play a practice match with the U21 team against the first national team. Not knowing where to go exactly he entered by mistake the dressing room of the first team. And all the big boys from that team looked at him thinking: what is that kid doing in here? So the kit man had to take him out and bring him to the other dressing room with the young players. A rather embarrassing moment he said. But shortly after he would be in the right dressing room.
9. Alexis has been chosen as the most sexy footballer in the past. Sexiest Footballer Alive the award is called. Cannot understand how a footballer could be sexy but well everyone has their elections I guess. So he has some good looks (mind you I’m not a good judge on such things) and he has said (probably jokingly) that once his football career was over he would become an actor. His favourite role would be as a detective. Poor crook that has Alexis chasing him. He wouldn’t stand a chance.
10. Alexis Sanchez is mad about his dogs. He loves to share pictures of his dogs with the rest of the world. Dogs with sunglasses, hats, t-shirts, … He seems to be more a dog man than a person man.
So that’s it. 10 things you might have known or not. 10 things that gives a better impression of the man behind the footballer. A man that came from a poor environment and that has made it in to one of the world best footballers. But still he is the same little, shy boy that loves his family and town. And it gives you a bit of insight in why he is such a hard worker. Because he had to, to become the player he now is. So he has never known anything else than: work hard and even some harder to reach your goal.
What a great player he is and what a character. His life reads almost like a fairy tale. A modern football fairy tale.
Anniversary of the day
23 February 1913: Tottenham supported by Clapton Orient called for a meeting of the League Management Committee to prohibit Arsenal’s move north. However the League reiterated their statement of 1910 that nothing in the rule book controlled where a club played its home games.
All Arsenal’s main anniversaries are recorded each day on the Untold Arsenal home page.
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