Luis Suarez takes the spotlight. (Getty)
If reading the Saturday papers has given you a troubling sense of deja vu, don't worry -- you're not losing your mind. You've probably just read some of the many Luis Suarez interviews that ran in various major newspapers all on the same day, containing some very similar points.
There have been accusations that Luis Suarez received unjustly harsh treatment from the British press when he was found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra last season. But now the Guardian, the Independent, the Telegraph and the Mirror (among others) are all featuring their own interviews by different writers with Suarez ahead of Liverpool's big match against Man City on Sunday that aim to illustrate the shocking revelation that one man can be capable of a wide range of human behaviors -- some likable and some unlikeable. Two of the pieces (the Guardian and Independent) are accompanied by the exact same soft-focus close-up of Luis looking off into the distance and all put across very similar crowd-pleasing themes of sacrifice, family, pressure, personal growth and moving on from the past.
The Guardian bills their piece as Suarez's "first interview since his ban for racial abuse" and all give the impression that each journalist spent quality time in the presence of the Uruguayan at Liverpool's Melwood training complex. Yet the distinct similarities that popped up in each story make it seem like a strategic blitz to change the perception of a man who was booed mercilessly throughout the Olympics that several leading papers were eager to run with.
The Independent notes that Suarez spoke "in the South American Spanish he feels most comfortable conversing in," so there could've been the opportunity for slight differences in translation if this were a group interview. But just to make sure Suarez's point gets across, we've compiled a sampling of the bits that seem to be the most important...
On his sacrifice:
Telegraph: "That is why I fight so hard. It was very hard for me as a kid to get through as a footballer in Uruguay. I had to sacrifice a lot of things to get where I am. From time to time I do remember as a kid playing football without shoes. Now I don't want to miss any of the opportunities that are open to me. That's why I play so hard on the pitch."
Guardian: "I have sacrificed so much to be where I am and fought so hard for it. I can't conceive of anyone wasting even five minutes in a game. [...] I played in the streets with my friends, barefooted. That was the way we lived."
Mirror: "It was very hard for me as a kid to get through as a footballer in Uruguay. I had to sacrifice a lot of things to get where I am. Now I don't want to miss any of the opportunities that are open to me. That's why I play so hard on the pitch. I don't know if that kid is still inside me, not any more, but certainly from time to time I do remember playing without shoes.
On what his wife says:
Guardian: "There are people who criticise me and that's normal because of the way I am on the pitch," he concedes. "I get angry, I get tense. My wife says that if people reach conclusions as to what I am like based on what they see from me on the pitch they would say I am a guy who is always annoyed, always in a bad mood, they'd say what must it be like to live with me. There are two of me, two different people."
Independent: "My wife says if people made their minds up about me based on what I am like on the pitch then they would say 'how can you be with this person?' But it's just the way I am during games."
Peter Odemwingie anecdote:
Guardian: "He came over to me and told me that I should forget about all that other stuff," Suárez says. "He said that I'm a great player and that I should just worry about playing."
Independent: "The other day a player from West Bromwich, their No 24 [Peter] Odemwingie, the one who scored against us, came up to me after the game," he says. "He told me that I was an excellent player and that I should forget about everything else and just concentrate on playing my game on the pitch."
Guardian: "And the pressure is greater than people realise. It makes you do things that you never imagined: eat more, eat less, act differently," he says. "It does something to you. There have been games when I've said to myself: 'Why was I so stressed, why did I feel under such pressure when all I ever wanted was to play football?'
Independent: "The pressure does things to you that you can't imagine," he says. "It can make you eat more, eat less and I have gone into games feeling it so much that afterwards you think to yourself 'why was I so wound up?'
Telegraph: "So long as supporters of the Liverpool and Uruguay team respect me, that's all that matters[.]"
Mirror: "The only thing I want is the respect of the fans of Liverpool and the fans of the national team of Uruguay."
On the past (the Patrice Evra incident):
Telegraph: "The club has trust in me because of the work I do on the football pitch and what happened in the past is in the past. It is over[.]"
Mirror: "My decision was easy because the club stuck by me last season. They had trust in me because of the work I do on the football pitch, and what happened in the past is the past - it is over."
Guardian: "It's in the past. I'd prefer not to keep talking about it, otherwise it will never end."
Independent: "It's in the past now. If we go on talking about it, then it will never end," he says.
And if we go on repeating the suggestion to stop talking about it, it will definitely never end.
In a time when the press can often be a footballer's worst enemy, Liverpool and Suarez seem to have found a way to turn it into his new best friend. For them, this was a collective work of genius.
UPDATE: The Times' Rory Smith explains the apparently irksome interview setup and some of the patterns in the overlap...
— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) August 25, 2012
— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) August 25, 2012
So it seems Liverpool's new Director of Communications, Jen Chang, a former editor at Sports Illustrated (Sid Lowe, who wrote the Guardian piece on Suarez, also wrote for Sports Illustrated until the time Chang left), has improved the official message, but not without upsetting some people.
- Sports & Recreation