Luis Suarez – My Story: Crossing the Line

luis suarez crossing the line book coverDate Finished: June 2018
Did I Like It? 7/10

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One of the most controversial players, this book starts off with addressing the elephant in the room. I can see where he is coming from, instincts are hard to be nurtured…but there’s always a line where you don’t cross regardless, which is likely why the book is titled as such. He’s right though, he did become a target because of his reputation, and that isn’t exactly fair. You’ll learn about fighting to reach your goals in this book most of all.

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What I Highlighted:

Introduction: Crossing the Line

I was at training the next day, still in this unconscious state of denial, not wanting to think about anything, much less face up to the need to apologise and accept the fact that I needed to get some help.

I made the mistake. It was my fault. This was the third time it had happened. I needed to work at this with the right people. I needed help.

I’m not justifying what I did –no one ever could –but I am trying to explain what happens. I’m still trying to explain it to myself, to understand what happens and why.

I wanted more. The feeling is very hard to explain. After everything you have done, you don’t want it to stop there; you want more, you can’t bear the thought of failure. It’s not that I want to win; it’s that I need to win.

Something closes down in my head. Logic doesn’t come into it anymore.

There is something about the way I play that is unconscious, for better and for worse.

For those ninety minutes on the pitch life is irritating. Each time the irritation levels had gone off the scale, the pressure had got too much, and I had reacted.

The thing I am happiest with at the moment is that I know I am being sincere and honest with myself.

But I am learning that if you let it go, some of the tension leaves your body, your mind clears, you feel better for it. Don’t keep it all bottled up inside; don’t take it all on alone.

I love English football and I will miss it, but it’s impossible to have your dream within your grasp and not grab at it.

I’m here to do what the coach asks; to deliver what the supporters want; and to work with team-mates who want the same success as I do.

1. This is a Love Story

Not only did Sofi know me when I was a lot less shy, she also knew me when I had nothing.

Playing so well and scoring such a good goal in front of scouts who weren’t even meant to be watching me was just the stroke of luck I needed.

The lower my head drops the more I fight to lift it up again.

The first thing I did was stop drinking cola. I did not understand that drinking cola could have such an impact.

When they weighed me the next time I was 83.4 kilos and Ron let me off that point four of a kilo. He said that he had seen that I had set about the task and tried to do the right thing. That’s when I realised what I had to do to make it. And that is also when I learned that I could do it myself; I didn’t need anyone on top of me. I could set targets and work to them on my own. I had that discipline.

Your family knows where you’ve come from and how you’ve struggled to get there, the sacrifices you have made, but the people who try to take advantage of you don’t care about that.

I started learning Dutch to speak it in training sessions and because the Dutch themselves really appreciated the effort.

Of course in that situation you have a sense of loyalty to your club but your greater sense of loyalty has to be to your own career and when Ajax came in for me it was an opportunity that I did not want to pass up.

When I was a kid two things saved me: football and Sofia Balbi.

2. The Dutch School

He was very strict as a coach and I liked that. If he had something to say, he didn’t hold back, and he had everyone very focused from the beginning. But as the weeks went by I realised his methods were not for me. He was very rigid tactically and I did not always fit into the system he wanted to play.

We didn’t win the league that season but there was still no let-up in this idea that you could force a group spirit on the team by getting them to do things together off the pitch.

I learned that you have to train well, but ‘train well’ did not always translate simply as working hard; intelligence was as important as intensity.

I learned to temper that a little and play more to the needs of the team. Tactically, I improved.

There was no point in going it alone; you would just tire yourself out for nothing. Instead we coordinated the moves, choosing our moments carefully.

It’s not easy developing fantastic technique if, aged seven, you turn up for training and they send you out for a run.

Being guided but also trusted to judge for myself and choose what was best for me was something new.

They started to get used to the way I played, but I had to change and improve too to fit the system.

The hunger makes a difference and if you don’t have it because you have been spoilt then that shows on the pitch. The hunger to want to succeed had got me to every single loose ball in Uruguay before the other guy.

As the attacker you’re the first line of the team; the one person that everyone else in the team sees ahead of them.

A lot of defenders get wound up by a striker who is a real nuisance: ‘pesado’ as we say in Spanish. Relentless, a real pain in the backside. You chase them, you run for every ball, you fight with them even if they’re twice your size, you don’t let them settle –ever.

I always saw it as my challenge to make my desire to win contagious, spreading throughout the team and infecting all the other players, and Jol recognised that.

What most defines me as a player is my instinct.

I found it difficult then and I still find it difficult sometimes, but as time goes by I have learned that there are moments when you have to just think for a second longer than you would otherwise do.

If my Uruguayan roots taught me to never stop fighting on the pitch, then my Dutch education taught me to never stop thinking.

There’s always a counter-argument and I think that’s enriching. They’re always thinking about the game, going through the options, and discussing alternatives.

But you can’t lose because of the way you play. It’s not that you are tougher than the other guy or street-smart enough to think about paying your rival’s rival a bonus. It’s just that you are two passes ahead of him because of how sound you are tactically and technically. They think more, they’re more technical and they’re more intelligent. We’re the opposite: it’s what comes from inside with us. I’ve been nurtured by both cultures and I feel privileged for that.

Communication helps and is a two-way thing.

3. The Hand of Suárez

We also didn’t feel under pressure; expectations were low after the way we had qualified and even more so after the game against France.

Footballers go to a lot of places but actually seeing them is a different matter.

I think when you’re away from home, you miss the good things and you forget the bad ones.

We all come from the same kind of families, that struggled and fought. And if you bring together people whose mentalities and experiences are the same, whose obsessions are shared, you have a big advantage.

You want to respond but you know the best way to do that is on the pitch, which was what we did.

We weren’t just crying out of happiness, it was pride at everything we had achieved.

More than having cheated I felt as if I had made a sacrifice; it certainly wasn’t selfish. It was giving everything for my country and for my team. That’s the way they saw it in Uruguay.

Being away makes me more patriotic and I don’t get back there as often as I would like.

That’s when we felt under pressure; we knew that we would have to suffer and struggle to defeat them.

That’s the downside of fame: the attention can be overwhelming.

4. Let’s go for 7

No one gets a full stadium applauding them until they’ve actually done something. And that’s the way it should be.

When you turn up to your first training session with a new club, it’s only natural to be looking at your new team-mates to see what kind of quality there is or isn’t in the squad.

He made me feel comfortable, always helped me out, and was very welcoming. He always talked to me face to face, he was very honest and very direct.

Learning to speak English was the hardest thing for me at first –in fact, it still was by the end of my time at Liverpool.

But I’m not sure if he would have achieved so much, or gone so far, if he had not had that character. That’s what drove him on and made him a better player. It was all about personality.

Speed and aggression sometimes disguises the flaws.

Everything happens very quickly on a football pitch and often you don’t even really have time to think whether you are in the area or outside of it.

Like so much of what you do, it’s not always conscious; you just see the chance and reach for it.

The truth is that you do feel bad about that, but on the pitch it all happens so fast, and you feel such a need to do something, anything.

Lots of players do it, but I think the difference with me is that I got that reputation and then it’s hard to get rid of it.

I think the striker has to be the first player to try to enthuse the rest of the team with his attitude. His enthusiasm has to be contagious. He has to lead.

5. ‘Racist’

And I’m still sad and angry to think that this is a stain on my character that will probably be there for ever.

But nobody had time for these subtleties when I was being condemned for racism.

If you don’t speak Spanish, then don’t accuse me of insulting you in that language, let alone insulting you ten times.

In one way it doesn’t matter to me because my conscience is clear. But what hurts is when people say: ‘Luis Suárez? –good player, bit crazy sometimes … and a racist.’

But where do you draw the line between trying to show you are not that kind of person and protesting so much that people then believe you have something to hide?

I never said sorry because I had nothing to say sorry for.

They defended me because they knew me. They knew what kind of person I was inside the dressing room. They knew how I was with my family. They knew what I’m like off the pitch. They know me. They know I’m not a racist.

Some people are attracted by the fame and the money not because they want to be your friend. That hurts. I hate that. They see you as an opportunity.

Ultimately you have to put your faith in someone and when two former players that you grew up idolising come to you then you are more likely to put your trust in them.

Nothing has been gifted to me. I fell out with my dad for a while because he thought that he didn’t need to work any more because he was the father of Luis Suárez. I told him: ‘Who is the one who plays football, me or you?’

They can accuse me of being tight-fisted but they know deep down that it is about putting a proper value on things. I’ll help people if they are willing to appreciate and value what they have. It’s about self-respect. I have a strong work ethic: maybe it comes from having struggled so hard to get here; the endless buses and long walks, scraping money together for the things some people take for granted.

Your self-esteem, your self-respect, should mean you don’t accept that.

6. The Rodgers Revolution

Confidence came through repetition.

Chasing a player down is pretty pointless if you do it on your own; done collectively, it can be very effective.

You always have to adapt to your environment.

He doesn’t explicitly tell players the plans for the game all week long because that would just wear you down and you’d end up switching off.

Brendan didn’t obsess about telling us about opponents constantly, but through working on certain exercises the message seeped into our minds.

What you can do, though, is condition your thought-process so that your intuition is informed, at a subconscious level, by what you have studied and what you know about the goalkeeper in front of you.

We were playing well, the style was good, but the results were awful and your faith in a new approach is tested by that. I was convinced that in the long run we were going to get it right, that the style, the analysis and the hard work would pay off, but it’s inevitable that doubts creep in.

Four goals! Inexplicable. I wasn’t even playing well, but suddenly the luck was on my side. Suddenly I was unstoppable.

Sometimes my intuition tells me that I’m going to have a bad patch, even before people really realise: sometimes I just know. It’s helpful to recognise that, rather than desperately chasing the goal. It’s better to forget it and play, enjoy the game, not the goals.

At times decisions are made to keep good players happy as much as they are to create a particular tactical structure.

I’ll tell you something: all strikers are selfish. Every striker is an egotist. Every one. I don’t know of any that aren’t. But that’s not a bad thing and it’s not a problem either; the team benefits from that.

7. So Close

Part of me thought: ‘Judge me on what I do on the pitch’ –but then again, the biting incidents happened on the pitch.

They knew that once I crossed that line, I would do everything I could to win for them.

Even with the fans who are most difficult to convince, goals tend to cure all ills.

You never want to get a pep talk before the warm-up or you’ll go out fired up too early and you’ll use up too much energy too soon.

We lost really going for it and, although that cost us, that’s something to be proud of.

We had been so close, only to lose it in the most painful way. It had been a unique opportunity and when it slipped through our fingers at Palace I felt lost. Powerless and lost.

8. That was Anfield
9. England, my England
Epilogue: The Callejón