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Growing Up

I'm the youngest of four brother and two sisters! My dad Albino was in the Peruvian Navy and then worked as a taxi driver before he retired, while my mum, Janet, was very busy bringing us all up. I can remember playing football from a very early age, like everyone else I used to play in the street. At the age of six I went to school although I can't say I enjoyed the lessons, all I wanted to do was play football and homework just got in the way!

When I did manage to sit down and look at my homework one of my friends would usually tap on the window and ask me to play. That was all the excuse I needed, I'd sneak out and try and get back in the house without anyone noticing. However, I would normally arrive home either covered in dust or mud - you can imagine what my parents would say!

It was in these younger days that I and a group of friends would play football in a field near our homes. Sometimes we would eat the earth, not because we were starving, it was just one of things that's kids used to do. When I came to England the press got hold of the story and I think a few of them ran stories calling me 'Earth Boy'!

Solano's friends at Peru
I return home as often as I can and this photograph shows some of my friends I grew up with. I had them kitted out in Newcastle strips and now we have a Newcastle United in Lima as well as in England!

Peru qualified for the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, I was only three years old at the time, so I can't remember much about it. Four years later we qualified again, and this time it made a big impact on me. By now I was seven years old and playing football whenever and wherever I could. I always had a dream of playing for my country and to this day, it is very important for me to play for Peru.

I have a lot to thank my father for, he also managed to get my first proper trial in football it's a good story! He was working one day when he saw a guy called Roberto Rojas at a garage. Rojas was a professional footballer so my father got talking to him and asked if he could take me for a trial at his club, Alianza Lima. He told my dad to take me to the ground that Saturday morning. The ground wasn't too close to where I lived in Lima, so my mum took me on the bus. When I arrived at the ground, I gave my name and date of birth to one of the coaches. All the boys were sitting in groups according to their age, the coach then sat me down in the '75 group. I asked one of the boys sitting next to me when were we going to play? He said that they had already played their game! I thought, well if I stay here I'm not going to get a chance. I moved over to another group, and asked if they had played, they hadn't, so I took my place in their group, this was the '74 group so I should have been here to start with!!

So at the age of eleven I had my first trial. I did OK and I trained every week with Alianza. After about a month we had a game against Sporting Cristal, there was a squad of about twenty five boys, I knew they would all wanted to play centre forward, so in order to get a game, I said I played centre back! It worked, I got a game and played well, making a good impression against my future club.

The two photographs below show me at Alianza, my first squad photos! I'm in the centre of the back row in the top photograph, I'm on the extreme right of the front row in the other photo.

I was happy with my progress at Alianza, I was made captain at the age of twelve, and at the fourteen I represented my country. I was still playing Centre-back at this time, even though I wasn't exactly the biggest defender in the league! I stayed with Alianza Lima until 1992 and I still have very good memories of the club, but now it was time to sign my first professional contract.

Next Part: Life as a Pro