Sunday, May 22, 2011

Antonio Valencia Once Ate Toothpaste

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Antonio Valencia overcomes injury to sparkle at Manchester United
From gobbling toothpaste to demolishing Chelsea - the winger has shown a rare drive to succeed

Lonely Planet describes Lago Agrio as an "unkempt oil town, not high on tourists' lists" and advises that any visitors should "keep their heads down". This scruffy, sometimes scary, outpost of north-east Ecuador is where Antonio Valencia was born and spent much of his youth either playing football barefoot or helping his mother sell drinks outside a sports stadium.

Carved out of Amazonian jungle when, in the early 1960s, oil was discovered and Texaco began drilling, Lago Agrio has suffered for its black gold. While an amalgam of appalling pollution and destruction of rainforest became the subject of a lawsuit involving Texaco's parent company, Chevron, local problems have been further exacerbated by a flood of refugees from the cocaine wars raging across the nearby Colombian border. "Kidnapping is a problem," says Valencia, who ensured his parents and six siblings moved to Quito, Ecuador's capital, once he exported his skills to Europe. "But I had a very happy childhood."

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