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Published 26 May 2023 4 min read
Men's Elite League Squad

Mateo Joseph's journey from Escobedo de Camargo to representing England at the U20 World Cup

Written by:

Frank Smith

Leeds United striker Mateo Joseph on how he went from a small village in Spain to living out his dream in the Premier League and with England

I used to live in a small village in Spain called Escobedo de Camargo with about 1000 people there. It was really small and that is where I started my footballing journey; playing with my friends.

I remember the pitch was in bad condition, to be honest. It was a humble club but I have really happy memories of it.

I played local football for Escobedo before I joined Racing Santander in my local city. I played there for around four years before I moved to a bigger club in Espanyol at 13.

It was the team that every young lad wanted to play for in that area. It was already like a dream for me. It felt really nice to be called up for that team and when I think about my journey, that team meant a lot to me.

Growing up, we were a close family so it meant the decision to move away from home at 13 to join Espanyol – which was in another city 700km away from home – was really difficult.

I'm from a big family and I was the youngest one and the first to leave home so it was really difficult. I was a little boy chasing my dream, but at the age of 13, no one is telling you that you are going to make it as a professional footballer. 

But I always wanted to be a footballer and I was going to give it my everything. It was a really tough decision but I think it was even harder for my parents and my family because I was the little boy chasing my dream. 

Mateo grew up in a small village in Spain, where he was picked up by Racing Santander and then Espanyol
Mateo grew up in a small village in Spain, where he was picked up by Racing Santander and then Espanyol
My dad is English, of Antiguan descent, and my mum is Spanish. So growing up during European Championships and World Cups, we would have two flags on our balcony: a Spanish one and the English one.

We would support both national teams and it was like we had two teams in the tournament, which was an advantage because if one lost, we had another national team to support. So my family, my sisters and I have been supporting both national teams since we were young. We were always hoping that England wouldn't face Spain to keep the peace at home!

You might have seen it reported that my dad’s cousin is Emile Heskey. I have met him previously at a family gathering in Leicester but I didn’t see him regularly growing up, although I would sometimes speak to his son and my cousin Jaden Heskey, who is at Manchester City now.

I did have Heskey on the back of a Liverpool shirt growing up though because he is part of our family. I also used to have Fernando Torres shirts from Liverpool and Chelsea growing up. I had a lot of football shirts when I was younger and didn’t have a particular club I supported. I just love football and even now, I always get different football shirts.

Growing up I would travel over to England every spare chance I had. Half of my family lives in England, from my father's side, so I used to go to London to see my grandma, who lives near Chelsea’s stadium, and my aunt and cousins who are in Walthamstow.
Mateo in action against Uruguay at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina
Mateo in action against Uruguay at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina
London is obviously different to Spain but England would always feel like home.

I was at Espanyol for four and a half years before I came to Leeds, where I've been for one and a half years now.

I'm really happy with the move I made. My family and I wanted to make the next step after Espanyol and we were looking for chances to play in a first team.

Leeds' technical director came to Spain and he showed us the pathway we could have. Everything has gone as he said in terms of things like making my Premier League debut and I’m looking to have more involvement next year.

When I get asked about the big differences between growing up playing football in the two countries, one of them is that in England, since playing youth football, you're playing on natural grass and on good pitches. In Spain, sometimes you have to play against a local team that has astro or something like that which can be difficult.
Mateo made his international debut for England for the MU20s in March 2023
Mateo made his international debut for England for the MU20s in March 2023

Here, in England, everything feels more professional. The federations manage everything really well and even in Premier League 2, playing in it feels professional.

Coming to England from Spain was an upgrade for my football because when you're young and playing in this kind of environment, you are getting the experience of that.

The football is more direct here too and for me as an attacking player, I really like it because you run in behind all of the time and you get more chances to score.

I'm really happy with the choice I made and how things are going; it's a privilege to be playing for Leeds and also to represent this amazing country.

I'm really happy with my journey so far and I cannot wait to keep working hard for more things to come.


When I think back to my early days of football, I remember when I moved from my village club to the local team, Racing Santander, the first team were in the second division in Spain and it was a dream to be playing there.  

Then when I moved to Espanyol, the same thing happened again with Espanyol and now I can say I made my Premier League debut! When I was there at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I just couldn't believe it! 

Those things make you stay with your feet on the ground and think about all the work and all the sacrifices you and your family made so I'm really happy for the journey I’ve been on and I’m looking forward to bigger things to come. 

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