I think I had the nickname ‘Chiquito’ or ‘Chiqi’ - Spanish for tiny - since my first day at the club where I started out, Racing Club in Argentina.
One of the players there, Lisandro Lopez, said when I arrived: “Here’s this ‘young lad [Chiquito] Romero’.“ Ever since then, everyone around the world has come to know me as ‘Chiquito’.
When I was younger, I had another nickname, or ‘extra name’ as we say in Argentina, which people knew me as when I played at another club as a youngster. That was ‘Checho’ but, from 2004 onwards, it has always been ‘Chiquito’ and everyone knows me as that, including my team-mates here at United.
It isn’t strange when players like Juan Mata and Ander Herrera use the nickname. I’m used to it. Those who are a lot smaller than me, or where there’s a big difference in stature, I call them ‘kid’ in a friendly way, so my nickname is pretty normal. I'm not bothered by it. In fact, I like it when people see me and they say “hey, Chiqi” or “Chiquito”, it's a nice thing.Racing Club legend Lisandro Lopez gave Sergio his nickname.
As you might know, I have three older brothers. Marco is the oldest. He's a dad, who works hard. Next in age comes Oscar, and he's also a hard worker too, they live in Argentina, and he has children too. Diego is a professional sportsman, who plays basketball, and he's the tallest of the four of us, standing 2.07 metres (6ft 8ins) tall. Yes, 2.07 metres!
Marcos is the second tallest, and he's 1m 95 (6ft 4ins), Oscar comes third with 1m 94 (6ft 3 1/2 ins), and I'm the smallest of the four, at just 1m 92 (6ft 3ins).
The fact is that we all have a very close relationship. We speak with each other all the time, although I'm living in England. We always have very regular contact. In fact, whenever I finish a match and it's been my turn to play, they call me to tell me what they've seen, and when I don't get to play, they're sad for me, but they keep hoping I'll soon get a chance to play.
Diego had the opportunity to play basketball at the Florida State University. Something which Marco and Oscar didn’t get as, when we were young kids, we lived in the north of Argentina, in Missiones province, in my home country.
Neither Marco nor Oscar got that opportunity of living in a big city where they could get really into a sport. But Diego, when he was 16 years of age, moved to another city, a much bigger one, and a city with a professional basketball team. So Diego was the only one who had the opportunity to play basketball professionally, though Marcos and Oscar did play that sport at amateur level.
We are four brothers and none of us likes to lose. We played basketball where we've all been on the same side, we've also played where we've been split across the two opposing teams. It was always in friendly games between mates, and nobody ever liked to lose, so if my brother is in front of me for the other team and I have to knock him, I'm going to knock him, because I want to win!
That's the competitive mentality we all share. If my brother is on the same side as me, and I have to defend him, I'm going to defend him – we always have the will to win, but if you were to put the four of us together, with another friend alongside, you would have a great team, and the five of us could put on a great basketball talent display for you.
To be frank, out of the four of us in the family, it was Oscar who was the best basketball player back then, with his understanding of the game. But looking at Diego now, and how much he has developed and how much he has learned, and all the skill he has for playing basketball, we are all very happy for him, and I always try to see his games, especially as now you can see most games on the internet, so whenever he plays at what you might call an early time of day, as I'm living in England, you can find me in front of the computer or the television, so I can report back to him how everything looked.
It was a big step for him to go to the United States but, as he expressed to the whole family, it was an important step and it was a big decision for him to take at that stage of his life. He was still a young lad, if I remember rightly, he can't have been more than 16 years old at the time, but he had that opportunity, and without knowing how to speak English, only knowing how to speak his mother tongue Spanish, he accepted that challenge of moving to the US.
He took English classes to learn to speak the language, and he speaks much better English now than I do, and he made that sacrifice, so as to play American basketball. He learned a lot, and developed a lot as a basketball player.
On top of all that, he studied at the university too, so he has some really great memories of what Florida meant to him, but he also has great memories of Jon Morris College which was the first place he went to in the United States, without speaking the language.
He did two years in Jon Morris College, then three years in Florida State University. For us, it was nice, and a great source of pride, to see him doing well in the US, it was incredible to see him playing in those games, in the colours of an American basketball side, as we all loved to watch American sports, a real honour.Sergio Romero poses for a photoshoot during the tour of the US. I did watch him live, we went when Diego turned professional and watched all his games. In fact, to this day, my mother, father and my brothers go to see him play, as he plays in the city where my relatives all live. So all the games he plays, they go and see him. When we were young, we went to the court to watch Diego play and I went when I had the time, because I would also go the day before, to practice with him, take a few shots, or maybe the matchday itself, I would go over in the morning, and shoot a few hoops with him. I like basketball a lot, it’s my second-favourite sport after football, at least as a goalkeeper, as it's only goalkeeping that interests me about football. When I went to Buenos Aires, to play for Racing Club, I was 15 years old, and I remember I had been at Racing for just two months, and my father called me on the phone and said that the coach of the professional basketball team in my home town, the team where my brother was playing, Club Gimnasia y Esgrima de Comodoro Rivadavia, had been asking when I was going to start playing basketball. Diego Romero playing basketball for Florida State in 2006. It was at that moment that my dad said:
“Look, they want you here, to play basketball, but you've already taken that important life decision to move to the big city of Buenos Aires, and to play football with Racing Club. So it's your decision, and it is in your hands, whether you want to return here and play basketball, or whether you want to continue on your journey in football.”
Of course, I decided to stick with football.
As a goalkeeper, there are many similarities. A goalkeeper has to come out to intercept crosses, the goalkeeper has to play using his hands, he has to anticipate the trajectory of the ball and the flow of play well ahead of time. Also, he has to stop quickly, as quickly as an outfield player, so there are many ways in which basketball has helped me to develop as a goalkeeper, and to improve my movement.
I certainly don't regret my decision. Whilst knowing that I have a great passion for basketball, its football which has given me everything I have in my life, so I am very happy with the decision I made at that moment of my life, in deciding to continue playing football.
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