RR: First of all – please tell us a bit about yourself. What is your name, how old are you, and where do you come from?
I am Ignacio Astorquiza, I am 22 years old and I live in Santiago, the capital of Chile. I study chemistry at the Universidad Católica de Chile and I am about to finish my studies. I live near the centre of the city! I am a soccer fanatic, and before the pandemic I used to go to the stadium every weekend.
RR: So what’s your story, then - how come you’re a Lads fan?
The truth is that I got to know Sunderland around 2010 when the coach was Steve Bruce. My first knowledge of the club was from playing the FIFA video game, and there I got to know the Sunderland squad and stadium.
Little by little I began to find out about the club and see the matches, and over time I began to fall in love with this club and to follow it - despite the fact that it was difficult to find where to watch each match, especially when we descended to the Championship and later to League One.
My favourite players have been Fabio Borini, Jermain Defoe, Yann M´Vila and Stephane Sessegnon.
RR: Do you own any interesting Sunderland memorabilia?
I always wanted to have a Sunderland shirt - I got to find out if they shipped to Chile, but it was very complicated. The first shirt I had I bought through Amazon, but it was not original, it was the 2016-2017 season shirt with the name Jermain Defoe and the number 18. My second shirt is from the 2018-2019 season - it was given to me by my dad who went to Europe and got it for me, but those are the two objects that I have from Sunderland.
RR: How popular is football in Chile?
In Chile soccer is the most popular sport, especially in recent years given that the national team has had good results, obtaining 2 consecutive Americas Cups, despite the fact that we did not qualify for the last World Cup in Russia.
RR: Do you have a ‘local’ side - and if so, who are they, and why do you follow them?
I support Universidad Católica - the current three-time Chilean soccer champion and curiously now the coach is Gustavo Poyet, who was coach of Sunderland between the years 2013-2015.
I am very happy that our team have a coach of the quality of Poyet and I would like to be able to meet him in person, because I have known him since he had his stint at Sunderland.
I’ve been a fan of Universidad Católica since I was a child because they are a club that works very well in the lower ranks, and despite not being the most popular or winning team in the country, for me it is the best team, and I have had many very happy moments thanks to them. So, I hope that many people from Sunderland also get to know more about Universidad Católica, and be one more fan of the team, despite the distance.
RR: Sunderland are a club like no other, but I guess that fans of all clubs feel this way about the teams that they support. What do you love the most about following this club?
What impresses me the most about Sunderland is the passion that their fans have.
When there was no pandemic and I watched the games, you always felt the passionate sound of the fans. It is true that the club has had a bad time lately, but the fans have been supporting and that is always reflected in each game.
I also fell in love with the Stadium of Light when I saw it, and it is a stadium that I really love because of its structure.
There are so many reasons why I love Sunderland that I could spend all day listing them.
RR: What would it mean to you for you to be able to see a Sunderland game in person?
I have never been able to be at the Stadium of Light, but it would be a unique and beautiful occasion to be able to see a Sunderland match in person.
It is a dream that I have had since I was a child to be able to visit the city, and be able to attend the stadium and live that unique atmosphere of attending a game. When I was younger I used Google maps to walk the streets of Sunderland...
RR: How do you find supporting the Lads from so far away?
The truth is that it is complicated - at first, the English football matches were not broadcast in my country so I had to see them on pages that broadcast the match and they were difficult to find. Then they began to broadcast the Premier League matches approximately in 2016, but when we were relegated, it was already difficult to watch the games because they were not broadcast in South America.
Even though there were times when I couldn’t watch the games every weekend, I always kept informed about how the team was doing.
RR: Are there many of ‘us lot’ out there where you live?
I have never met someone from Sunderland where I live. I have friends from various English teams such as Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City - my brother is a big Tottenham fan - but I have never met someone like us.
Lately I have seen pages, especially on twitter, that follow Sunderland from Uruguay, Argentina or Brazil. As a curious fact, one of my best friends from school was a Newcastle fan and at school we joked with each other when the other’s team lost, but always in an environment of respect and laughter, but during that time it was when we achieved 6 in a row.... and I enjoyed it as much as any fan.
RR: What are your hopes for, let’s say, the next five years for the club?
The hopes that I have for the team in the coming years is that we achieve promotion to the Championship and, as far as possible, to the Premier League where the club can remain in the top flight, and hopefully be able to return to being a competitive team.
I am especially hopeful now that a new owner has arrived with new ideas and proposals that can help the team to emerge again.