Why not share your own story of how you became a fan of Valencia CF with the rest of the community. Maybe you fell in love with the team watching clips of"El Matador"Kempes or their star-studded side that won La Liga and the UEFA Cup in 2004. However you became a supporter of the blanquinegros we would like to hear from you.
My name is Armando Espinal and I am from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois in the United States. Currently I am living in Los Angeles and am one of the chairmen of the Penya Valencianista USA. I have been a valencianista for many years and always wear a Valencia CF jersey whenever I can. I have always identified with the club. It has been a symbol and extension of my family. My love for Valencia CF started when my father and I were watching a Champions League game when Claudio "Piojo" Lopez scored an amazing goal for Valencia against PSV. At that instant, we had a memorable father-son moment. My father has been a valencianista long before I was born and his idol is Mario Alberto Kempes. He loved that we shared the same passion for the club, and after witnessing that majestic goal we would watch as many games as we could together. During my free time I would play soccer in the local youth leagues trying to mimic certain players like Pablo Aimar and David Albelda. Whenever I had school or extracurricular activities my parents would pick me up and my dad would inform me of any games that I had missed. He was the one who informed me when Valencia won the 2002 league title. I was so ecstatic to hear the news that right when we arrived home, I went outside to kick the soccer ball around like my idols who were thousands of miles away holding the beloved trophy. I imagined being Kily Gonzalez or Vicente making amazing dribbles, blowing past defenders and scoring amazing goals.
Not too long after, when Valencia CF won the historic double, my father and I went to buy Valencia CF jerseys. It was my first jersey and I wore it as often as I could. This sparked my Valencia CF jersey collection. I would buy as many jerseys as I could and wore them to school with pride. I became known as the Valencia kid and that nickname has stuck with me ever since. Years went on and I would constantly dream about being able to go to Estadio Mestalla and watch Valencia play. In school I used to do various projects on Valencia CF, especially for my Spanish and World Geography classes. I would share my passion for my beloved club with my peers.
In 2010 I found out on Valencia CF's official website that the club was in talks with a few MLS clubs to possibly have a USA tour. I got goosebumps reading the great news and my father and I were determined to go to the games. Unfortunately, the tour did not happen. Nevertheless, I was positive that Valencia would return one day and that I could finally watch a Valencia game in person. Two years later, Valencia CF announced a confirmed USA tour with games in Houston and Portland. Right away my dad and I bought tickets for the Houston game and planned our trip. A few days before the game my dad and I left our home in Illinois and drove hundreds of miles south in the family car to Houston. During the road trip my father and I were talking about our memories watching the games on TV together and our favorite players. At the time, we identified with Vicente Guaita as he and his father shared a strong bond. Unfortunately, his father passed away and we wanted to give him our support. We made a poster for him and showed it proudly once we arrived at Houston. We waited many hours outside the stadium in anticipation to see the players in person. Time went by quickly once we talked to other Valencia fans who also shared the same passion for the club. Julio Silva and his family were in town to watch the game. They are from Dallas, Texas and traveled as well in order to live their dream.
After we talked for awhile the team bus pulled up to the stadium. I will always remember the moment when the players got off the bus. I was in pure awe as I never imagined seeing Valencia CF players in person. I was in a loss of words. Once we walked into the stadium, my father and I walked behind where Vicente Guaita was training and were telling him our condolences and giving him our support. We were then interviewed by vcfplay about our bond with Vicente Guaita and the club. It will be something that we will always remember and be thankful for. At the end, Guaita gave me his training jacket and I was in tears. It was surreal. We enjoyed the game as Valencia beat Houston. My dad and I went back home to Illinois telling the family about our travels and about our memorable experience at the game.
A few months afterwards I went back to college for my Junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I told all of my friends my experiences and that I found other valencianistas in the United States. They encouraged me to build a network and assemble a group on social media in order to stay in touch with the valencianistas that I met in Houston. We formed a facebook group and page and a twitter account in order to network with other valencianstas. Also exchange students from Valencia at the University of Illinois encouraged us to reach out to their friends and families from their homes in Spain to join and help us. With this growing network, I would chat on facebook and twitter with Julio Silva and other valencianistas. As such, the Penya Valencianista USA was born in a college dorm room.
Our online activity drew the attention of the author of The Barraca, an online Valencia CF chronicle. He interviewed me and wrote an article about the Penya Valencianista USA group. This helped to gain the attention of Guillermo Barreira who is a valenciansita that was at the time was living in New York City. He joined the penya and became the President. He would watch games with a group of valencianistas in soccer bars in NYC. These valencianistas (Cesar Benoit, Anurag Nikhare and Daniel Yearwood to name a few) joined the penya as well.
Our online communication with each other and to other valencianistas throughout the country continued for many months. During this time we became an online family. Soon after, Valencia CF announced their second USA tour. With this information we organized together and set up a group trip to watch the game in New York City. The night before the match, the club was amazing and hosted an event for us. We got to meet the players and management of the club. It was a beautiful thing to see the fans and club come together as one and truly showed me that Valencia CF has always been my family. We absolutely loved the game, especially watching it together as a collective group. From this trip two valencianista brothers from Dallas, Texas, Ivan and Julian Gonzalez, became lifelong friends with us.
A few months later, during my last semester in undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my mother surprised me by buying my dad and I plane tickets and hotel reservations to Valencia as a graduation gift!!! It was the best gift that I have ever received! Right away I told my friends and the penya members. They were happy for me. Shortly after, Guillermo got me in contact with the club and made it possible for me to watch the Valencia CF-Villarreal CF derby at Mestalla. When my dad and I arrived in Valencia we were in awe. It is a beautiful city and everyone was super friendly. At the game we were reliving all of our memories together as father and son. Our dreams had come true and we were spending it together. We will always be thankful to the club for making this possible and recording our time in Valencia in a vcfplay video that we can show our family for many generations to come.
Shortly after, Valencia CF came back and won 5-0 against Basel in an epic #ReAMUNTada in Mestalla in the Europa League. At the time I was in the lounge of the Illini Union at the University of Illinois in full Valencia CF gear and was screaming at the top of my lungs and running around in joy. The team showed me that anything is possible and to never give up. Paco Alcacer became an inspiration for me. It was surreal as I had met him and the team a few weeks prior in person in Mestalla and in Paterna.
A year after this, I was graduating from my graduate studies at the University of Illinois and Valencia announced their third USA tour in Columbus, Ohio. The penya coordinated with the club in order to watch the game in Columbus. We traveled from different parts of the country in order to go to Columbus. There were many familiar faces and many new faces, like Jose Hernandez, who lives close to my hometown, and Tom McGeoch, a Columbus native. We had a blast tailgating and reminiscing the great moments when Valencia won trophies and crucial matches like the epic win over Basel. We were truly one big family.
Weeks later, I left my parents in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams and launch my career. With me, I brought my valencianismo. Tom McGeoch and Daniel Yearwood also recently moved to Los Angeles around the same time and we meet up to watch games with other LA valencianistas like Alfonso Wongvalle, Rudy Madrigal, Ruben Sanchez and Jo Alva. We have become a VCF LA family. I call my parents whenever I can and always talk about Valencia CF with my father. Even though I am hundreds of miles away from them, I always feel that they are with me whenever I watch a Valencia CF game or wear a Valencia CF jersey. I will always be a valencianista through thick and thin and when I die I want to be buried wearing a Valencia CF jersey. It is more than a feeling, IT IS BEING A VALENCIANISTA.
Copyright 2013-2018 Valencia Club De Fútbol. Quoting text from this article is permitted provided that en.valenciacf.com is credited as source, with a clickable link. Photographs by Lázaro de la Peña, re-use is not permitted.