I met Rick Leong, chairman of AVFC California, last month at the North American Villans meet-up in Chicago. Given his obvious passion for all things Villa, the amount of time he devotes to supporting the team, and the fact that, like me, he is both an American and a relatively new supporter, I wanted to hear his story!
The Starting Eleven
Where were you born, where do you live now, and what do you do for a living?
I was born in Oakland, California and live currently in Castro Valley, California (eastern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area). I work for the local public water utility.
Like most Americans, I thought “Where do you start?”
How and when did you choose Villa?
Like most of us, I didn’t choose Villa—Villa chose me. Growing up in America, my attention was on and I played the standard American sports. My teams continue to be the Oakland Raiders (NFL), Oakland Athletics (MLB), Golden State Warriors (NBA), San Jose Sharks (NHL). I didn’t follow football in the States (NASL, MLS) until 2004 when I was introduced to the San Jose Earthquakes. I was captivated by the Beautiful Game. As my interest grew, I had to learn more about the international teams where football was prominent. Of course the EPL, being the most well-known league, was a league where I felt called to pick a team to support.
Like most Americans, I thought “Where do you start?” All the other teams I support are based close to my hometown. This would be different. At the time, I was volunteering at a local children’s hospice and as I read about each of the EPL teams, it was Villa’s new relationship with Acorns that started my love of Villa. I heard of Acorns through my volunteering and knew that my team was chosen for me.
What was your happiest moment as a Villa supporter?
My happiest moment as a Villa supporter was my opportunity to visit Villa Park for the first time in 2012 and to play in the Lions Club Chairman’s game on the hallowed grounds. Even for someone like me, with a much shorter history supporting Villa, playing on that turf was magical!
What was your most painful moment?
Hearing the news about Stan.
Which team would you most like to see Villa beat this year?
Chelsea. I know that we can do it. I still have that bitter taste in my mouth from last season.
Who is your favorite player on the current squad?
Brad Guzan. Partly because he is an American, but mostly because I respect him so much for his professionalism and loyalty to Villa.
Who is your favorite player of all time?
This is a tougher one for me as I am still in need of absorbing so much more of the Villa lore. The person that comes to my mind immediately is Nigel Spink. When Rimmer had to leave early in the ’82 European Cup final and Spink had to come in—I just can’t imagine being in that situation. Then to perform the way he did to secure Villa’s most cherished victory—he is a Villa hero!
What are your favorite sources for Villa news?
The network of Lions Clubs, especially those here in the U.S. Also from fellow Villans in the UK via Facebook.
Rate yourself as a fan. What are your best and worst qualities?
I am a rabid Villa supporter. Best quality? Maybe loyalty, winning or losing. I can’t imagine supporting any other EPL team. There may be other teams that I follow, but Villa is my #1 . . . in any sport and anywhere!
Where do you usually watch games?
The Mad Dog in the Fog in San Francisco.
What are you usually drinking?
Guinness is my go-to pint, but I love trying new things!
Battle of the Brads: Friedel or Guzan? Do you believe Little Brad will eclipse the achievements of his American predecessor, or will Big Brad be the Baddest Brad of all time?
I actually refer to Guzan as “Big Brad” as I believe he is of slightly larger stature than Friedel. Friedel was a great keeper for Villa, but I really do think Guzan will eclipse Friedel’s career at Villa. Guzan’s loyalty to Villa really impresses me and I hope that this continues to pay off for him in his career. Both are great American keepers, but Guzan will not only become a Villa legend, he will also take over the #1 spot of the U.S.A. from Tim Howard . . . it is only a matter of time.