Alexis Sanchez, 10 non footballing facts

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.

42 Replies to “Alexis Sanchez, 10 non footballing facts”

  1. It makes a lot of difference when one plays football for some genuine cause instead of fame and fortune and other selfish reasons.

  2. Heres a fact and opinion

    Fact- he has shown a level of commitment that had not been seen at Arsenal for years.
    Opinion- his performances and the plaudits he earned for his 100% efforts has shamed the rest of the lacksidasical squad into raising their game.

    Basically he has set the example to follow.

  3. He has been like a breath of fresh air to the team . He leads from the front and inspires the rest to great exertions . He gets into the faces of the opponents as well of the refs , and both don’t like it !
    Not since Henry have we a player that promises so much to the functioning of the team .I do hope that he goes on to break records with Arsenal .
    All hail King Alexis !

  4. I have always admired Alexis since I saw him play for Udinese and wished Wenger will buy him then (when he left for barca) but alas we were financially crippled then.

    I was over the moon when rumors that he was signing for us emerged after the WC. I couldn’t wait to see him in an Arsenal shirt. His work ethics and love he has gotten since joining Arsenal has been incredible.

    Knowing these facts about him has increased my admiration for him. He is the kind of signing we hope for this Summer. More of players with such work ethics.

    Kudos Walter

  5. In all professional sports, there’s nothing like being poor and hungry as an incentive for success.

  6. Nicky

    Yeah, that often works with footballers & boxers, but you rarely hear of poor/hungry tennis players, skiers or racing drivers. Wonder why?

  7. ……and how many footballers come from wealthy backgrounds. I can only think of Luca Vialli who is from a aristocratic Italian family, but no others, which is why I’m keeping an interested eye on the Beckham Boys’ progress.

  8. ThomB,

    Is it impossible to praise one of our players without insulting the rest? Those so called lackadaisical players are the reason why we could afford Alexis and must be one of the reasons why he joined us.

    Your comment reminds me of the blabbering last season about how the purchase of Ozil lifted the team that was the best in the league in the previous calendar year. Funny how the talking point changed as soon as the German’s form dropped.

    Praise Alexis as much as you want – he clearly deserves it – but can we do this without insulting his team mates? –

  9. I first saw Alexis Sanchez in the England vs Chile game played at Wembley. He had recently signed for Barcelona and he showed why in the game. I particularly remember one moment when he tracked back, won the ball from an England player and then turned and attacked with such power and pace, I was amazed. Those were the days of austerity in Arsenal, and I said to myself, why cant Arsenal sign such players, why did have to go to Barcelona and then resigned to the fate that Arsenal has no money to spend on superstars.

    So Alexis coming to Arsenal was in a way a wish come true for me! And right now is he is my favourite Arsenal player just for the sheer effort and determination he puts in!

  10. Alexis, what an amazing player. Interesting stuff about him too. Such a shame the thugs in the prem don’t appreciate his talent, sure they’d rather have a team full of Phil nenevilles.

  11. A good example of what most players from South America and Africa go through to make it in the end. Kudos to Alexis for putting in so much of hardwork and humility even after success. A word of mention for two players from a different background. Andrea Pirlo and Fernando Carlos Redondo, two of my favorite players ever. Brought up in a well-to-do family or rather from a very comfortable family with options varies in succeeding. Read about them in the web and you will realize there are good human beings in football after all. Especially the part where Pirlo managed his family business in New York while playing pro in Italy and the time when Redondo personally cancelled his contract in Milan after he was seriously injured. Just research about these two legends and you can learn a lot in life.

  12. I think Tocopilla (nickname is Toco?) considers itself a city. It is the capital of the state of the same name.

    Toco is a fishing port, from which saltpetre and copper is (was) shipped. The saltpetre is nominally associated with the Atacama desert, which is very close. The next city to the north on the coast (Iquique) gets 1-3mm of rain each year (not much). Iquique was originally part of Peru. Charles Darwin bitched that there was no firewood in Iquique. Kind of hard to grow trees without rain. I wonder if Will is related to Charles Darwin? :-}

    Toco has a 514 MWe coal fired power plant. A little inland from Toco, is the town of Maria Elena (also associated with saltpetre), which is getting a 400 MWe solar power plant.

    Two rivers meet (on the highway to Maria Elena) and then hit the ocean at Tocopilla. With rain so rare, these rivers are probably more like channels for flash floods to run through, which might give rise to a possible older name for Tocopilla of Quebrada Honda (Deep Ravine).

    I don’t know about the counting around there. There are supposedly 24,247 people in Tocopilla, and the state has 28,840. And yet, Maria Elena is part of the state, and has 4593.

    Maria Elena is 62 km away from Tocopilla as the crow flies (I bet Menace didn’t know crows could fly 🙂 ). and the elevation at Maria Elena is 1155m

  13. Alexis does bring some passion and will into the game, Flamini and Rosicky have some of that too.
    This team has not even begun to play yet. By play, i mean when you see the joy on their faces from game to game(we see a little of this at times). At the moment there are still some pressures on their mind, but when they break free and just play as they know they can play, we’re in for another AW treat.

  14. Attended a Colo Colo match in the national stadium in April of 1994…crazy…a riot broke out in the terraces behind the Colo Colo net. The team was losing to U. de Chile so the more boisterous fans started taking it out on the Carabineros. For those not versed in Chilean history, the national stadium was used as a prison camp after the coup against Salvador Allende in 1973. All suspected of leftist tendencies were incarcerated there by the National police force. Colo Colo is a populist team, with a lot of working class support so they have no love of the Carabineros. Anyway, things eventually got out of hand and the uniformed thugs came into the stands and took the boots to the havoc raisers in the Colo Colo away support. We were fortunate that no one panicked because we were about 75 m away and a stampede would have been lethal.

  15. After Aguero my expert (please don’t laugh at me) nomination for Eduardo’s heir was picked up by a petro-club during the undeniable austerity (undeniable unless you were or are a disingenious expert who can’t see the woods or the trees) period my affections for my fantasy signing passed on to one Alexis Sanchez.

    Following on from the Ozil signing, I’m in dreamland. It’s almost as if, whisper it, that somebody, somewhere, has had some kind of a plan. 🙂

  16. AW Finsbury, I don’t believe that. 🙂


    Are you from South America? How did you end up in Chile for that game?

  17. “Those so called lackadaisical players are the reason why we could afford Alexis and must be one of the reasons why he joined us”


    And he won’t be pining for la liga anytime soon. Sorry haters. Looks like he’s here to stay, unless the PGMOB hack him out of the game. He can be observed* to receive the matic treatment every other game!

    It wouldn’t be the first time.

    *that would not be an opinion.

  18. @ Gord

    I was teaching English and travelling and fell in with the wrong 🙂 crowd. Ended up joining a local football club (in Santiago) and went to a few of the Colo Colo matches. Brilliant time, lovely people, great football (baby futbol, futbolito y futbol)Great stories, too.

  19. On the subject of Alexis, I wonder if he would have received the same outpouring of sympathy had he slammed cahill to the ground after that cowardly potential leg breaking challenge, such as matic is getting. Diaby was called stupid and all kinds of unsavoury things when he reacted (in a much less violent manner) to that cowardly but more dangerous stamp by Barton. Noone had any sympathy for Diaby, despite he’d been out for several months already from an equally poor tackle such as the one he reacted to. The double standards on display are shocking.

  20. GoingGoingGooner

    English, eh? I speak FORTRAN better than English. Well almost. Certainly far better than I speak French. In about grade 3 or 4, the system realised I was hopeless at French.

  21. finsbury

    On Sanchez ‘He can be observed* to receive the matic treatment every other game!’
    Never a truer word, furthermore the assaults inflicted on him, Jack and any other Arsenal player who are hacked down on an almost weekly basis, attract none of the media outrage as that accorded to Matic. At least Matic was able to jump up and confront his assailant. Jack, who missed several weeks of action thanks to McNair, got hardly any sympathy and was even accused of bringing it on himself because he hangs on to the ball too long and invites the challenge.
    God I hate the media.

  22. Mourinho’s remarks are disgusting. He approves of dangerous assaults by his players, defends Costa for stamping, then complains about the Burnley player, whose tackle may have been dangerous, but did seem accidental. At the time, no other Chelsea player reacted and Matic was clearly totally unhurt.

    As others have pointed out, our players receive such dangerous “tackles” in every game, without any media comment.

    Remember Mourinho’s cowardly attempt to gouge the eye of the Barcelona coach. Pity that Arsene didn’t deck him, instead of just pushing him.

  23. Just a correction budy.. He don’t speak with a tocopillan Spanish or accent as you said..( sounds funny to me, because I’m Chilean as well ) he speak with a lot of slamming Chilean words.. That’s because he born in a very humble place and because we.. ( the chileans) use a lot of slamming word between us… Sorry for my English. Greetings from Canada ..!!!

  24. In addition to his world class quality he exhibits world class character. Even after a world class butchering HE GETS UP AND CARRIES ON. An example and inspiration for all. Especially the UGMO.

  25. John
    True. The problem is the media, they give him the platform to demonstrate staggering levels of hypocrisy without question, and more or less act as his mouth piece. On motd2 they even used his style of naming the minutes the incidents they wanted to analyse happened in. Mourinho is the biggest hypocrite I’ve known in football, but our media fail to even challenge him on the most basic of things. Noone has got any balls, that’s why he does what he likes and gets away with it. He moans when a team like west ham defends against his side, yet he does the exact same thing in his next match against a top four side. He tells his thugs to kick opposition players, yet moans when one of his players gets kicked, accidentally too. His sides are always full of players who are ready to dish the rough treatment and/or dive to win penalties (at Madrid he turned players like Pepe and Ramos into proper thugs with Ronaldo a serial diver, at Chelsea he has thugs in Cahill, ramirez, ivanobitch,Costa,Terry,Mikel and divers in hazard, Costa, ramirez, Drogba, etc.) He’s poisonous, and as a person he has zero qualities that makes one a decent human being. Had he’d been a woman I’ve no doubt he’d have beenha gold digger of the highest order. He was not labelled an enemy of football for nothing.

    They sussed him out in Italy and Spain, and it’s shocking how our own media lap up all his nonsense as if he walks on water. It’s a shocking and tragic case of ass licking that defies logic it’s embarrassing.

    The saddest thing about football in England is that Ferguson retired at the same time as Mourinho was coming back. If we had had one or two seasons of non toxic management things might have improved for us. All we needed was a small window of normality, just to allow football to be football. I can’t wait for the day abramovich wields the axe.

  26. GoingGoingGooner

    Airdrie? Sure, just an 8 hour drive. 🙂 You’ve been travelling. Have you been to: Smashed In Head Buffalo Jump, Writing on Stone, Waterton or Cypress Hills? For a couple of US places; Wall, South Dakota and Yellowstone?

    Sorry, I’m not on the computer much today, installing Linux on a refurbished Win-7 machine.

  27. Expert posts from Chileans and people who’ve lived, worked and even watched football in Chile!

    Yet another reason to love Untold!

  28. @ Gord
    Hah. Most of them. And I know you are nowhere near me. Played hockey up there as a kid, though!

  29. well said AL.this mouninho guy is an embarrassment tp all football fraternity
    because of his super ego he is afraid of failure and he is preparing the fertile ground to base on when Man City overtake him to the crown
    thanx for the information on our star player.we love him for doning the famous red and white of the Arsenals

  30. The only one daring to challenge him seems to be the Burnley manager

    He defends his players like most managers does. But do keep on watching till the 9th minute of the video. Then you see the real sportsmanship of Chelsea. When Burnley have an injured player and the keeper throws the ball out while Costa is kicking a Burnley player with the ball nowhere near. Then Chelsea can take the throw and they just keep the ball instead of giving it back to Burnley.

  31. The barefoot is probably most underrated when it comes to learning ball control technique. The natural instinct & foot position when playing barefoot ensures less injury because of pain when done wrongly. Touch is developed far better & use of boots enhances the foot skills. I still play barefoot sometimes & people wonder how I can kick a ball so hard without boots. It is the technique of kicking learnt at a young age barefoot. The soles of the foot are also harder & less sensitive but get soft with constant use of socks & shoes.

    Some of the greatest players started playing barefoot just as Alexis.

    Incidentally, the last time India qualified for the World Cup finals, they were not allowed to continue because they wanted to play barefoot!! Laws of the Game.

    Its those flying crows Gord!! 😉

  32. Untold makes football stories seem more homely and for the life of me the comments just make the stories more interesting. Who cares about Mou? And who makes football suck? So why listen to Mou suck?

  33. 2. Tocopilla does have a football team: Club de Deportes Tocopilla

    3. The people from Tocopilla are Tocopillanos.

    I ran across one piece of street art, it looked like a car was painted, I don’t know what it was meant to depict.

    6. Dec 2013 was the 6th consecutive year he did the Santa Claus thing in Tocopilla. A common gift was a football.

    I hope the added meat to the 10 is welcome.

  34. Other stuff about Tocopilla.

    A third name for the port, is Caleta Duendes (Goblin’s Cove). It is 1559km north of Santiago.

    Visiting a travel website, it seems there is 1 hotel in the city (Chungra). There are no pictures of it, no prices. It has 22 rooms, and is on the main street. There is 1 restaurant (serving Chilean quisine), no prices. I am guessing there are more than 1 hotel and restaurant, that is just all this website had listed.

    I seen a visitor TODO list, and most of the things to visit are of an archeological nature. And it seems the road to get there is usually gravel.

    > The most famous spas are Salitre and Covadonga. The Covadonga spa has a marvelous restaurant and a social club.

    There is a website called I Love Chile, which has articles about Tocopilla. Apparently Alexis is planning to invest in the city. The article doesn’t say if he is talking to any acordion manufacturers (hello Koscielny). But the article did have this:

    > According to the Estrella de Antofagasta, “El niño maravilla” made a surprise visit to his home city to meet with members of the municipality behind closed doors. While Neymar’s arrival at Barcelona puts question marks over the Chilean’s future, Sánchez has made his intentions to give back to the community he grew up in.

    I can find mention of 2 radio stations: Radio Definitiva 90.5 FM and 840 AM Radio Portales. Neither radio station seems to have a web site, or anything about local happenings. Newspapers?

    The line of longitude that comes closest to Tocopilla is 70W, which is also close to Portland, Maine, Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic and Aruba.

    They do seem to have a municipal market (I would call it a farmer’s market), but where would the farmers be? There is no rain there. The only source of water seems to be ground water originating in the Andes. And for the same reason that there is almost no rain in the coastal city of Tocopilla, there is not a lot of snow and ice in the Andes downwind (uphill) from Tocopilla.

    And that is about all I can dig up.

    I think Alexis has done well, and I wish him the best in his career. I hope Arsenal can do something to make up for him not getting to be Santa Claus this last Christmas.

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