Meet Malia, an assistant science lab manager and a university biology professor in St. Louis, whose love of Aston Villa has constantly evolved and created lifelong friendships.
“I got into soccer when I was five or six because I looked up to my older brother so much, and our dad was the coach. I wanted to be like my brother, so I did everything he did. And then I started watching and enjoying the Premier League once it was so easily accessible on NBC Sports.
“My ‘Aston Villa moment’ came when I was trying to figure out which club to support and, I know it's not super-exciting, but I did one of those online quizzes that told me I would love Villa since I’m a lifelong Chicago Bears fan.
“It was a match made in heaven, because I am a diehard US national team supporter. At the time, Brad Guzan was with Villa, which made it so easy for me to fall in love with the club. Instant connection.
"Throughout the pandemic especially, the biggest thing for me has been the natural instinct of the club and its supporters to help those in need."
“I love following and supporting the community service work that the Villa Foundation does on the volunteer and nonprofit side of things. Throughout the pandemic especially, the biggest thing for me has been the natural instinct of the club and its supporters to help those in need.
“Even through relegation, my support never wavered. Every weekend, we would go to our local pub, Amsterdam Tavern, and they’d turn on one TV for us to watch the Championship. We’re still there now that Villa is back in the PL and our following has grown a lot.
“Being promoted back into the Premier League was such a special moment. I remember getting together with friends that support other teams, and even with friends that support Fulham – which is the team we were facing in the promotion playoff. I was so nervous and so on edge all day. But then they did it! I cried, I can’t lie, I cried like a baby.
“I have a best friend as far as soccer goes, but she’s a Liverpool fan. That made the moment Villa beat Liverpool 7-2 last season that much more special. It was so unexpected, but I celebrated like it was a holiday! We’re planning a trip to the UK to take in some matches. She’s been there many times before, and I’ve never had the chance to see my club. I cannot wait.
“Our friendship is so much stronger because we are both so passionate about our teams. We kind of ran in the same circles before we actually met.
"We were involved in local St. Louis soccer groups, supporting the local clubs and the local chapters of the American Outlaws. Once we brought the Premier League into our friendship, it became so special.
“But when our clubs play each other, for that full 90 minutes, it's all Aston Villa for me!”