While Luis Suarez continues to fire Liverpool to what could be a first league title since 1990, his older brother Paolo is playing for Guatemalan side Comuniciones. Here, the 33-year-old midfielder tells FFT's Martin Mazur about early morning Whatsapp sessions, Liverpool life and meeting Steven Gerrard...
Luis was always a very brave boy. I’m six years older than him, and when I was playing street football with my friends, he wanted to play, too, without caring about being younger. At the beginning my friends would try to be easy on him, since he was so young, but as soon as he’d started dribbling past everyone, they weren’t so nice with him!
My idols were Ruben Sosa and Enzo Francescoli, as they played in my position. His idols were Batistuta and Chevanton. He’d yell their names as soon as he’d taken a shot. We also liked the goalkeeper Jorge Seré, and since we both like goalkeeping a little bit, we tried to be him, too.
We’re both big fans of Nacional, and it was a dream come true to see him play and win the championship with them. My dad and most of my brothers and sisters –we are 7 in total– are Nacional fans, only my mom and one brother, Maxi, support Peñarol.
Whatsapp with brother Luis
I was the first one to leave Uruguay and play abroad, for El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan. It was hard to be away when technology didn’t help as it does now. I had to go to a cyber café to talk to them, since calling was ridiculously expensive, and they’d gather, my mother, Luis and the rest of the family, in another cyber café in Uruguay, just to see me. Or actually see my face freezing because connections were so slow! But it was very emotional. Now it’s impossible to think not to be in touch with them after two or three hours, but then it was a matter of weeks.
"Pepe Reina gave me four pair of gloves. When I went back home it looked like I was Liverpool’s kit man!"
Luis left a couple of years after I did, to play for Groningen, convinced that he wouldn’t be back from Europe in a while. He is so focused that I admire him for that. At Ajax he’d been fantastic, and I say this not just because of the goals he scored, but for his match performances. I’d wake up early and go to the cyber café of my neighbourhood. Sometimes I was waiting on the street, a Sunday at 7am, before it was even open. It was the only way to see him in action. Now it’s easier, I don’t have to go anywhere, I can just watch him on television.
I now play in Guatemala, for Comunicaciones, and due to time difference I have to wake up even earlier. Sometimes five in the morning, but it’s so worth it. After he scores one of his strange goals, you know, those where he takes a shot from an impossible angle and nets it, I write a message on Whatsapp: “What a goal! You’ll tell me that you really meant to do that, won’t you?” Then he picks the phone after the game and finds all the messages.
'Four passes and bam!'
Luis is playing incredible football at Liverpool. I think the club suits him and equally he suits the club. His teammates are terrific, too. And he is getting the respect and praise he deserves from the rest of people. He’s been chosen player of the month consecutively, and Liverpool are also winning crucial games. I like the fact that they’re in a very Uruguayan situation: while everybody speaks about Arsenal, Chelsea or City, all losing points as soon as they get the lead, the truth is that Liverpool are always there, quite close, playing well, having solid performances, and I think they’ll get the lead when the time is right. Besides, Luis likes when somebody writes him off, it’s a great motivation. We all Uruguayans feel that way, actually.
Which other Premier League team can rely on the easiness of scoring goals that Liverpool have? They don’t need to waste too much time in the build-up, they just nail four passes together and bam, they score. The way they destroyed Arsenal proves so.
I had the chance of visiting him for Christmas 2012, with one of our brothers, and it was amazing. We would get to the training ground at 7, one hour in advance, so we could prepare and drink our beloved “mate”. I was with my son, Agustin. Suddenly all the lads were arriving and Luis introduced us. (Steven) Gerrard came back and invited Agustin to the dressing room. Some minutes later, he comes back with Gerrard’s signed jersey. You can’t imagine my emotion.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Lucas Leiva’s home and it was really funny. In England they take the celebrations very differently, so we were the only ones having an arsenal of skyrockets and petards in the whole neighbourhood. It was so silent, expect from our house, that had more noise than a war film.
I took back home some good gifts for myself, too: Lucas Leiva gave me his shirt, Pepe Reina gave me four pair of gloves (later auctioned to sponsor a foundation that helps children with cancer) and I got a pair of boots from Nuri Sahin and Stevie Gerrard, on top of the gear Luis gave me. When I went back home in El Salvador, it looked like I was Liverpool’s kit man! It was so great to be at Anfield. He scored twice and dedicated them signalling to us, the whole stadium cheering. I felt I was walking on the moon.
We are all living a dream with Luis. As a brother, and as a Uruguayan, I’m so proud of him. To realise that he’s the all-time goalscorer of the national team, after so many legends that have played in the light-blue shirt, is really too much. And the best part is that there’s more and more to come, he’s still young and very ambitious.
It’s true that we have broken the bunk beds where we all slept a couple of times [while attempting spectacular bicycle kicks], but other than that, we’ve always behaved nicely. Luis has a very quiet character. But when he enters the pitch, he is different. I’ve never met someone so eager to win in any situation, no matter if it’s a training session, or a friendly game, the preseason or postseason. He’s always focused on scoring and winning.