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The Amaya dynasty: Antonio Amaya - the end of an era? Part 1 (8th October, 2017)

On a small football field in Madrid, Alfredo Di Stefano stepped on for a veterans match. He was retiring, and this was his sendoff.

Used to large crowds and noisy football stadiums, he probably was thinking - where am I?

Spain's districts are divided into neighborhoods, or barrios. South west to Puente de Vallecas is the working class district of Villaverde, where a small barrio of about 18,000 inhabitants resides. It has historically been isolated, from the north and east by the railroad, to the south by the old Army Car Park and to the west by the old highway to Andalusia (A-4).

40% of the population is made up of immigrants - in the 1960s, immigrants from Extremadura, Andalucía, Murcia and Castilla La Mancha came in hoards, looking for a way to escape the poverty of their towns.

On Rocafort street, a small football field is home to CD San Cristóbal de los Angeles - one of the most prestigious youth academies in Madrid. The academy that produced Raúl of Real Madrid, and Carlos Aguilera Martín and Julián Romero Nieto of Atlético Madrid. And many, many more*.

And Antonio Amaya.

Mind you, this was not the best neighborhood to build a future: Antonio once joked about it: "We played less play football ... what you could learn was how to take a wallet". But it is that fighting spirit that has served Antonio Amaya well...

Born in the capital of Madrid, Amaya began his career at local San Cristóbal de los Ángeles. He joined another team in the community, Rayo Vallecano, in 2002, also serving a six-month loan spell at lowly UD San Sebastián de los Reyes in Segunda División B.

Eventually, Amaya returned to Rayo, becoming an important defensive unit for the side which returned to the Segunda at the end of the 2007-08 season and comfortably maintained their league status the following campaign, with the player appearing in less than half of the games (18 out of 42).

Partly due to his deteriorating relationship with Pepe Mel, Amaya signed for Premier League club Wigan Athletic on a three-year contract on 14 August 2009, being joined by Rayo teammate Mohamed Diamé a week later. While Mohamed was sold for 3 million euros, Amaya was sold for just 800,000 euros - an indicator of how cash-strapped Rayo were. But after failing to make a single league appearance in 2009-10, Amaya returned to former club Rayo in a season-long loan. He was regularly used as the club returned to La Liga.

He would go on to sign for Real Betis for 1.28 million euros on a three year contract, and after his contract was up was back where he belonged.

And he certainly belonged. The fans loved him and he loved the club - he would even go on to play two games with a broken toe. It reminds me of his older brother, Iván Amaya, who once played with broken ribs while at Granada...more in part 2...



*Including Amaya's cousin and brother, Yuma and Iván Amaya respectively, and Rida Arkine of Leganés

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