The story of Wigan's 'The Three Amigos': "They gave us the chance to go to the moon"
Roberto Martínez, Jesús Seba and Isidro Díaz, the first non-British players in the history of the club, recall an unforgettable time, on ASTV's La Futbolería.
1995 saw a Spanish-accented revolution at Wigan Athletic. The first three non-British footballers arrived at the club in the northwest of England - Roberto Martínez, Jesús Seba and Isidro Díaz - and were quickly dubbed The Three Amigos (after the comedy film of the same name starring Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short)
La Futbolería show on ASTV brought the three amigos back together to remember a time in their lives they will never forget.
Roberto Martínez recalls his time at Wigan
After being shown the most iconic photo of the trio, Roberto Martínez, currently Belgium coach, was the first to recall his memories of the time: "There we were, in 1995, with the Wigan shirt and the most famous club trophy there is: the FA Cup. That was the first day three Spaniards played in the tournament. And it so happened that I scored, the first Spaniard to do so in the FA Cup. The three Mexican sombreros was a mistake by the press officer, who thought they're Spanish and it would be a good idea. There's eight hours by plane between Spain and Mexico... [laughs]. From then on, because of the film The Three Amigos we got a lot of love. Those memories will last forever."
With Seba and Isidro joining the chat, to the surprise of Martínez, the Belgian coach carries on reminiscing: "The amazing thing was that back then, in 1995, they gave us the chance to go to the moon. We didn't know Wigan, or even much about the Premier League, far less about the lower divisions. We were all really curious, we were great friends, and we went off into the unknown. If there hadn't been three of us I don't think it would have lasted so long."
Check out the reunion on our YouTube channel (in Spanish).
Going together was the key
Seba continues: "The key thing was that three of us went, that helped us a lot. We went to discover Wigan, who were in the English Third Division, and although it was professional, having already debuted for Real Zaragoza it was a bit of shock. They invited us over and once we were there we were convinced. All three of us seeing it together, for me, that was the key in making the move."
When Isidro speaks you can hear a tone of affection and happy memories in his voice: "It was a time it's impossible to forget because I was heading off with two friends to an unknown country, to a city we'd never even heard of, and we went on an adventure. I had one of my best footballing years there and the two years together were incredible. We made so many friends because we discovered lots of Spaniards living there. It's impossible to forget it."
Differences between Spain and England
As to the "undiscovered country", England, Roberto Martínez weighs in: "The differences with Spain were huge. Suffice it to say you couldn't find an espresso anywhere, it was all filter coffee. And everyday had its battles. As soon as we arrived they organised a press conference in English, when we didn't speak a word of English."
It was also necessary to adapt, a lot, to the football. "You couldn't find a bigger contrast: three footballers who'd come up through the ranks at Real Zaragoza, which was all possession football, trying to understand spaces, defending the ball, and we turned up in a place where the first thing to do was pass the ball, get to the box as quickly as possible, fight and win space on the pitch... It's the influence of rugby, percentage football. Isidro and Jesús, who played out on the wings, looking to try one-on-ones, had few chances to play their way," says Martínez, delighted by the virtual reunion: "It's great to see Isidro and Seba, who's a scout for the Belgian Football Federation. The stories we've got are very special."
The love of the fans touched Martínez: "Because we were the first foreigners in the history of the club, [the fans] respected us for being Spanish and having decided to come to Wigan. The story of The Three Amigos gave them something special, which is what the owner David Whelan was looking for. He was a former Blackburn player and when he'd played there had always been foreign payers there and he'd always said that when he had a team he'd mix European skills with British passion. I alway remind Jesús and Isidro that when I started as coach in 2009 there was still a desire to see that dream, which so represents Wigan.
Seba finishes up: "In principle I was going to be the decent player, the expensive one, who'd played for Spain Under-21, and I ended up being the first to come back." He went back to Real Zaragoza, who all three hope are soon back in the Primera. "What I experienced in two years there was like 20 years in any other city," says Seba. And 20 years, you know, is nothing, particularly for friendships like this one.