Goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux on riots, rubber bullets and rebuilding his career
When supermarkets burned down in Chile, Lawrence Vigouroux found a unique perspective.
Three months earlier, in July 2019, the goalkeeper went to Concon, on the Pacific coast, trying to enter the national level.
After his release from Swindon he signed for Everton de Vina del Mar, a long way from the Wiltshire countryside, but it was a move he had to make, having first been called up by Chile a year earlier.
Five months and zero appearances later he returned to England a changed man.
The protests, triggered by rising train prices, forced the suspension of the Chilean Primera Division and Vigouroux, now at Leyton Orient, burned forests and saw local riots.
“The government raised the price of a train ticket by about 20p with our money and went mad,” he told the PA news agency.
“They were setting fire to supermarkets and it was like, ‘Wow, I’m from Camden, the main thing I see is when someone leaves the stove on and there’s a little fire in the stove.’
“There were people protesting, they were in Plaza Italia, opposite Trafalgar Square in Santiago. They were there for days, the police firing rubber bullets. It was really scary.
“I went to Santiago to visit my grandfather. I was in the car and the forest was on fire. He was crazy. Smoke everywhere, on both sides of the road, it was like I was in the movie Armageddon. Big trees were on fire on either side, his image was striking.
“Then when I got there, it was like a war zone. In addition to that, almost every day there are earthquakes due to where it is in the world.
“They are not that strong, but you can feel it, especially coming from England. It was surreal but it’s a great country.
“Finally the Constitution was changed and I agreed with the people because a country is only as good as the people who live in it.”
Various issues led to the unrest, including a four percent increase in Santiago metro fares and a 10 peso increase for buses, which eventually burned down 17 stations.
It was a sticking point for a country already in a cost-of-living crisis and shaped the outlook for the 29-year-old, who once paid a £50 fine with 5,000 pence while on loan from Liverpool at Swindon. since then his career.
“As a human being, definitely,” says Vigouroux, who has children India, Thiago and Carmelo with Shemika. “When I was young I had many problems in terms of discipline: being late or going out when I shouldn’t have.
“It has helped me as a person because I love the game. It showed me how much I wanted to be successful if I ever had the chance to come back here and not mess anything up. I felt like I was the last resort.
“I have a lot of regrets, but I wouldn’t change anything because I would still have to learn. The way I was was not acceptable. I learned the hard way.
“I had to move miles away from my family to try to make a career there because nobody wanted me here.”
The return from South America has been successful. Joining Orient in 2020, two player of the season awards followed at Brisbane Road and the O’s are six points clear at the top of League Two ahead of Saturday’s trip to Hartlepool.
He has kept 20 goals in 36 games – four more than any other goalkeeper in the division – and conceded just 24 times.
The irony of the way Richie Wellens – the manager who sacked Swindon – has shaped his life is not lost on Vigouroux, but he is happy to be playing and being a father.
“The way I was has set me free, not as a player but as a person,” he says, having started his career at Brentford and Tottenham before moving to Anfield.
“I am completely different now. I’ll be the first to say that I wasn’t the most professional when I was younger. I don’t think that would be said now. When it arrived I really wanted it to work.
“It’s very nice because I get to do the school run and that’s all. Some people take it for granted. I didn’t do that or see my children grow up every day and be with them every step of the way (when he was in Chile).
“When I leave here, I turn off football and I’m just a father. Then I go back to training to become a footballer.
“I want to be there for my children and help them with their homework. It helps me mentally, so I don’t get consumed by football.”