Juan Mata signing autographs at Old Trafford.

Juan Mata: My hometown

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata discusses growing up in Spain and life in Oviedo, where some other famous sports stars were born.

What can you tell us about your hometown?
“My home town is Oviedo. It is a little town in the north of Spain, in Asturias, which is where I was raised and where my family is from. My dad used to be a football player so, since I can remember, I was kicking a ball, playing with my sister, going to my dad's training and games. So football was always a big part of my life. I remember my childhood being a very happy one, in school, making a lot of friends with the people who are still my friends, playing football as a kid and, later, as a football player.”

Where in your hometown did you go to most often?
“Well, I used to go to Real Oviedo games, which is my home team, to the stadium which is called Carlos Tartiere and now is the new Carlos Tartiere. I used to go there every two weekends to see my team play. I'd go with my friends, who were all supporters, so we used to bond over our football club.”

So is your hometown very football orientated?
“There is no doubt about it, football is the biggest sport in Spain and almost every kid plays in school. You make a lot of good relationships and friendships thanks to football. That is how I did it, that is how I met many of my friends. Obviously, not only playing but going to watch many games and dreaming about one day becoming a professional player.”

What else would you get up to?
“We used to travel together when we were a bit older, with school trips to Madrid at the end of term. Also, on holidays, we used to travel together to different parts of Spain - it is all happy memories. When you are growing up, it is about enjoyment and happiness, playing football and studying together, getting to know each other, so it is great to remember those times.”

Were there any particular shops that you used to go to?
“Candy shops? There was one just very near to our school so, on Fridays which was my favourite day of the week - because Friday afternoon was the best feeling because you finished school and had the weekend ahead of you - we used to go to this candy shop and have a few sweets and chocolates, and play football after school. I remember how much I used to hate Sundays because I had to do my homework. I had played our football games on Saturday, so Sunday night was that bad feeling of knowing you had to start again on Monday morning, with maths at 8am, which was not ideal.”

Have there been any other famous footballers from your hometown?
“To be honest, Oviedo is not a very big team but we have had a few very good players that have played in the Premier League and in the Spanish First Division. For example, Santi Cazorla. Everybody knows him, of course, as a legend of Arsenal, who is now playing in Villarreal and is a very good player. He also came through the Real Oviedo academy. Michu, a striker that played in many teams, including Swansea, in which he played two or three great seasons. He is also from Real Oviedo. Adrian Lopez is another great striker who played for Atletico Madrid, among other teams, so there are three or four Oviedo players who have played in very good teams. Also, in different sports, Fernando Alonso, the Formula 1 driver and world champion, is also from our town.”

Fernando Alonso, the F1 legend.
Formula 1 racing legend Fernando Alonso was also born in Oviedo.
Do you get to go back there often?
“Yeah, I go back as often as I can, to be honest. My family lives there so, whenever I have the time during the season and during the summer break, I try to go there to see my family. My friends, many of them live in Madrid or Barcelona now, so I go to visit them there, but, whenever I go back home, I see all of my family, which is great. My cousins, my uncles, everyone. It is great to go back because I feel really at home there.”

Where is home for you now?
“To be honest, I feel at home here in Manchester too. Since I came, in the town, because I like Manchester as a city and also where I live, which is a bit far out because it is close to the training ground, in the Hale and Bowdon area. I feel at home there. It is very relaxing. There are many places to go, restaurants and coffee shops, so I feel very happy in England. I think it has been around eight years now, already, so I have been playing in England for longer than Spain, professionally, so that says a lot about how happy I am in this country.”

How would you compare Manchester to your home town?
“Well, it is different, every country has its culture, its tradition and its way of living. So it is different to live in Spain and England. One thing that I always try to do is adapt myself to every situation that I have been in and that helped me to feel better in every club that I have played. There are differences in times, in the way we eat, in the way we go out, we tend to do everything later in Spain compared to England, but I am used to it already so there are no complaints.”

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