Pablo Mari grew up supporting Villarreal, but he’s ready to fight for Arsenal and he says his family and friends have to support him too.
When Arsenal take on Villarreal in the Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday, Pablo Mari will have an extra reason to feel excited for the clash as a childhood fan of the opposition.
The centre-back admits he grew up with the dream to play for Villarreal one day and it will make the match more special, but he’s focusing on the Arsenal side of things right now.
“Yeah of course. For me, I grew up in Valencia. I supported Villarreal and Valencia,” Mari said. “You think I want to one time play for them. When you grow, you grow with that dream. I’m really glad to be here to fight for Arsenal for that semi-final.
“At the moment they (Mari’s family and friends) don’t wanna support [Villarreal] tomorrow. They have to support me.”
I’m so used to reading about opponents that grew up supporting Arsenal that it’s a bit strange to be on the other end of the story for once.
You certainly don’t imagine there are many members of the Gunners squad that followed Slavia Prague, Olympiacos, or Benfica as a child, but we often get stories like the Dundalk winger who took ‘Thierry’ as his confirmation name after Thierry Henry.
It always seems to spur the opposition on to put in their best performances, so we can only hope Mari’s childhood affection for Villarreal gives him the same motivation.