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A De La Cruz Tribute

A De La Cruz Tribute

When Aston Villa allowed Ulises De La Cruz leave on a free transfer in the summer of 2006, I was gutted.

Firstly, Martin O’Neill sought to replace him with a right back that you can only have nightmares about. Turning once more to his former club, the ex-Celtic manager took on French defender/midfielder Didier Agathe. The very fact that Agathe did not earn a longer term deal is some testament to O’Neill’s judgement; however the initial signing did make many a Villa fan wonder. This was a player who in Villa’s 1-1 draw with Fulham attempted to knock the ball round a defender to chase onto, only to run out of breath and slow to a near halt allowing a defender to pick up the loose ball. To date it is believed he has since failed to find a new club.

Secondly, Villa were losing what I believed to be a model professional. The only time that Uli aimed any sort of criticism towards his employers was when he accused former Villa boss David O’Leary of blocking the Ecuadorian’s exit from Villa Park. De La Cruz was the back up player dreams were made of, rarely commenting on his playing time (are you watching Thomas?) and would ‘do a job’ whenever it was required.

He was, in no uncertain terms not the long-term answer for the full back position either pre, or during the current reign of Randy Lerner and his 5-year plans, however he was a considerably better option than the likes of Agathe or even former Manchester United loanee Phil Bardsley.

Ulises De La Cruz is also a professional footballer that puts many of his high-earning contemporaries to great shame.

Christmas is the traditional time of year that professional footballers go on their hospital visits, giving up a few hours of their busy schedule to pose for photographs, give presents, and generally be the seasonal highlight of children suffering from illness or injury. It is after all the least they can do, for John Terry a 2-hour trip to his local children’s unit would make up approx £714 of his weekly salary.

There are however, footballers that go to greater lengths to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Step forward former Aston Villa defender, Ulises De La Cruz who comes from Piquiucho, Ecuador.

DLC made the BBC News headlines in January of this year as they picked up on the fact that the now-Reading player donates a portion of his wage every week to fund projects to regenerate the community that he grew up in.

Fundecruz, the charity set up for this very reason was started 8 years ago as Uli looks to improve conditions for the Afro-Ecuadorian community that is situated 3 hours drive North of the capital city Quito. Every day, 100 local schoolchildren are provided with breakfast and lunch, all courtesy of the wage earned by De La Cruz. Other projects have included a permanent sewerage system, school and upgraded medical facilities.

All of these projects have come from donations to the player’s foundation, and his wages. This has led to further criticism from the local residents aimed towards the Ecuadorian Government who have, largely ignored the efforts being undertaken by one of it’s own national footballers.

For the future, De La Cruz is looking to build a hospital, high-school and university for the area of Ecuador that boasts more international footballers per area than any other part of the world!

The 32-year old told BBC how the countries two most recent trips to the World Cup Finals have led to massive improvements for the people of Piquiucho:

'The 2002 World Cup, when Ecuador qualified for the first time, financed the 18km of water pipes and a treatment system.

'The 2006 World Cup in Germany, when we reached the second round, was important because the success means I can finance a new sports and community centre, now under construction.'

'I want to create opportunities for the children to show that they can have a brighter future.'

Often branded by Villa fans as “Useless,” I urge everyone to have a re-think for a man who gave his all for Villa, and gives an awful lot more to those who have not had the lifestyle enjoyed by the football superstars of today, to gain that chance of doing so.

You can find more information, including ways to assist Ulises De La Cruz with his Fundecruz project (now a UK registered charity) by visiting

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

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Date:Wednesday December 19 2007
Time: 5:02PM


Good shout! Hats off to UDLC
19/12/2007 17:42:00
what is with the jt jibe...i really do think it is very unfair that people pick on him...a whole hearted player...who gives everything for each team he plays for...even if i play a devils advocate against him still i cannot think too much wrong that he has done????but de la cruz deserves a special a piece about his deep contributions in Ecuador and was really moved about the help that he has given..sometimes it takes one to suffer to really the value of success and thus kudos to de la cruz and also to the writer for bringing this up.
19/12/2007 18:24:00
I think it's important to point out that when a recent whip around for nurses was asked for, none of the chelsea lot opened their pockets. I'd say that was ammunition for players like JT on over 100k a week. Even a day's wages would have gone a long way in support of those overworked work horses that we all rely on and expect miracles from. Excellent article Murph, this is the true spirit of christmas that i was raised with and glad to see there are people out there who share the sentiment on what really is important in life (besides the villa)
19/12/2007 18:39:00
Brilliantly put Murph. Always hated the heckles of Useless, how the hell was that meant to help the team or player?
The Fear
19/12/2007 18:45:00
Until I read this article I am ashamed to say that I knew nothing of any of the charity work Uli does and as far as I can remember I can't recall the club publicising it either, but I could be wrong. With all of the negative publicity surrounding footballers, alot of it deserved admitedly, it is heartwarming and life affirming to read of this type of work being undertaken. It is also illuminating to consider that it is a player from a less priveledged background who has come to the premiership and it's associated rewards who then channels it back to his homeland to help his compatriots. Perhaps our overpaid and cosseted homegrown "stars" should take a good long hard look at themselves and realise the position they are in before they start behaving the way they do , with contempt for ordinary folk. Maybe then football can start to properly reconnect with the fans and we wouldn't get the type of abuse aimed at the England players for their apparent self interest before the team. Also taking johnnyuk's point, my wife is a nurse and she will be working christmas day as she does most bank holidays. A lot of premiership players earn more in a week than she and her colleagues do in a year and in the area my wife works she really does have peoples' lives in her hands on a daily basis which is why my blood boils when I see the antics of some of the overpaid chavs who often disgrace our great game. Sorry, rant over......
19/12/2007 22:09:00
Good article,I thought he was great when I first saw him in the Copa America in 2001 when Hibs had signed him and was excited when he joined us.Was suprised by how well he played when I saw him for Reading last year.
19/12/2007 22:26:00
Doesn't Kanu also do a whole lot of work for the disadvantaged? I guess it just shows that being rich doesn't make you a bad guy, any more than being poor automatically makes you a nice one ...
19/12/2007 22:53:00
Hats off to UDLC for his work. Good Luck to him. He's one of a few, thats for sure.
20/12/2007 02:43:00
Fair do's to Uli. I must admit i got down to level of the chavs and shouted Useless but to be you're right he was the model professional who initially struggled to adapt from Scottish Premier League to the English Premier League but had some great times a Villa. I salute you
20/12/2007 11:51:00
Great article. Restores faith in people at this festive time! Best of luck to UDLC..he deserves it.
20/12/2007 14:08:00
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