Press article:

Big-hearted Nobby's no bad apple - 03/05/2004


Nobby Solano insists he is more Del Boy than bad boy as he prepares to sit out the crucial finale to a season which could see Villa make it into Europe.

The Peru winger's family needed money so badly that he was sent out to work at the age of TEN to run a market stall selling fruit and veg!

And, for that reason, Solano says he appreciates every moment as a Premiership star.

Solano makes his farewell appearance of the season against Spurs today, knowing that he will begin a three-match suspension next week after being sent off against Middlesbrough for lashing out at former Villa midfielder George Boateng.

But the Peruvian international is quick to point out that he is not one of football's big shots - as he had to work his way out of poverty to get where he is today.

Otherwise, he knows that he could have been scraping a living in Peru's capital Lima.

The young Solano set up his own roadside stall in a bid raise cash for his family.

It was a scene straight out of Only Fools and Horses, but the difference here is that Solano's big plans became reality.

He always wanted to be a professional footballer, but his father, who served in the Navy, made him stick to a rigid blueprint for success.

"It was hard for me when I was younger, I come from a big family and we lived in a run down part of Lima, I have four brothers and two sisters," said Solano.

"I had to go out and work when I was only ten years old. It was necessary because my family needed me to bring money in. I set up a little market stall by the side of the road and sold fruit and veg.

"That was how it was for me, it was a very hard life. But I am proud to say that I did that and carried on until I was about 15 when I went into football.

"The political situation was unstable and there was a lot of trouble with terrorism. Things are different now of course, but my family is the most important thing for me and I have made sure they are all looked after since I came to England.

"I am happy to support them because I know I am lucky, not too many people can have this job. It is chaos back home, but wonderful chaos!

"They taught me most of all to be a good person, it doesn't matter whether you are a footballer or a doctor, that sort of thing should apply to everyone. I value what I have now because I started from nothing."

Solano is more than happy to use his role as a hero to young fans to promote local charities.

And on Friday, he dashed from Villa's Bodymoor Heath training ground to meet children at St Edward's School in Coleshill who had raised money for Midlands charity, Father Hudson's Society.

"I want to be a good example, especially to the kids, which is why I think that what happened to me at Middlesbrough last week was very stupid," said Solano.

"I just want to do my job and I know everyone loves football. I know that children have a dream, to be maybe a Beckham or a Henry, so I hope I can help them achieve that."

But while Solano is happy to give his time whenever possible while he is at Villa, he knows that English youngsters have a much more comfortable life than those in the slum areas of Lima.

And it was growing up in those sort of surroundings that made him even more determined to make a name for himself in the game that he loved.

"I always wanted to be a footballer, there was nothing else in my mind and I would play in the streets all the time, but my father made me stick to a tough set of rules," he said.

"He told me that if I wanted to make it and be a good professional, then I would have to stay away from things like smoking, drinking or partying.

"I knew I couldn't have the same life as my friends and I accepted that. I had to sacrifice certain parts of my life and I think you have to be prepared to do that between the ages of 18 and 35.

"And after that, I think I will still stay in football, I'd like to be a coach and maybe work with Peruvian players to try and get them to clubs in Europe.

"There are only three of us over here at the moment and it is difficult to prepare for such a move. But I will go back to Peru at some stage to give something back to my country."

Solano is desperate to sign off with a win against Spurs to try and give Villa one last push for the fourth spot that would take them into Europe.

But after that, he must sit out the games with Southampton and Manchester United before heading to South America for Peru's World Cup qualifiers and Copa America bid.

"It's very important for me to finish well with Villa, if I can then the team can say it has been a good season and we might be in Europe by the time I come back," said Solano.

"We need to push hard for another three points against Spurs.

"But as for winning Copa America, I don't know. Brazil and Argentina will be very tough."

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