Bascunan Santiago

Give me a 'Diego Armando': the footballer with a themed food truck

Career Transition Player story

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Bascunan Santiago
•Chilean footballer Hugo Bascuñán runs a food truck called 'Football Lover'

•His sandwiches are named after players including Maradona, Vidal and Ronaldo

•He sells 150 a day, inspiring teammates to consider starting their own businesses

Every day coming home from training, footballer Hugo Bascuñán drove past an unused food truck parked by the side of the road.

After mulling over what to do after his career for several months, he worked on a business plan and negotiated to buy the truck from the owner. Bascuñán has since refurbished the food truck, and today it is open for business (every day except Monday) in his hometown of Casablanca, part of a wine region near Valparaiso, Chile.

Each of the 34 varieties of sandwiches on the menu is named after a football player from late Argentine great Diego Armando Maradona to Chilean star Arturo “The King” Vidal. The food truck is called “Football Lover” and to complete the theme, there is green artificial turf outside with the white markings of a football pitch.

“The footballer names really resonate with customers,” Bascuñan says as he opens up the truck at 10:30 a.m. on a winter’s day. “People stop by and say give me a ‘Diego Armando’ please.”

Even though it was launched during the pandemic, the new business is thriving. He has hired six staff, extended the opening hours and sells as many as 150 sandwiches a day. In the evening until closing time, people come to the truck to eat and chat about football.

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Top: Bascuñan playing for Santiago Morning in 2019 (Photo: IMAGO). Above: Outside his food truck in Casablanca, Chile

“Our clients are people who work in banks and offices, travelling salesmen and local residents,” Bascuñán said. “It’s a mixture of everyone in the town.”

During the recent Copa América some customers stayed indoors to watch games and ordered take-outs from the truck’s delivery service, he added.

On crusty white bread, the “Diego Armando” ingredients are barbecued beef, avocado, tomato and mayonnaise. “King Arturo” Vidal features a different cut of meat. The “Phenomenon Ronaldo” -- named after the former Brazil striker – is among the other big sellers. It is made of beef, cheese, mushrooms and comes with a side dish of fried potatoes.

Other players on the menu include hard-tackling defensive midfielder Gary “Pitbull” Medel and playmaker Luis Antonio “the Wizard” Jimenez.

When he drew up the menu, Bascuñan tried to align the sandwiches with the players. The no-nonsense Medel sandwich is made of just beef and cheese. The Jimenez one made from Italian pulled beef because he played in Italy’s Serie A for several seasons.

“I am really pleased with how it’s going, and I think it’s a good example to other players”

— by Hugo Bascuñán

Bascuñán first began thinking about life after football four years ago when he attended a personal development course organized by Chilean player union SIFUP.

“It opened my mind to do other things outside football,” he said.

After he spoke to a former teammate who had his own food truck he was inspired to do the same. When in the last off-season he was between clubs, he decided to go for it and buy the food truck.

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Food truck 'Football Lover' lit up under the lights. Credit: Hugo Bascuñán

Now, at the age of 36, Bascuñán is still a professional footballer for San Antonio and is studying to become a coach. However, while he can’t be managing the food truck all the time, he takes care to keep an eye on business. It helps that it is parked on the street where he lives.

After training in the morning, he chats to customers, supervises the shift changeover in the middle of the afternoon and plans for the days ahead. He is looking at adding a seating terrace on the 8-metre-long roof of the truck.

“I am really pleased with how it’s going, and I think it’s a good example to other players,” Bascuñán said. “It has inspired my teammates to do something different themselves. They have been talking to me about their own business ideas.”