Wednesday , August 4 2021

At 16, I still paid to play football –

The new hero of the Liverpool fans told “Athletic” about the beginning of his career, his passion for eSport and his future fatherhood.

Diogo Iota smiles, recalling the moments from the fairy tale he is experiencing now. Not so long ago, the bright lights in the Premier League and Champions League seemed like a pipe dream.

“I still paid to play football when I was 16. Today, kids aged 14-15 already have professional contracts. That’s fine, but in my case, it wasn’t,” she recalls.

“Until the age of 16 I only played for fun. I was lucky that my team was close as a family. We played together for nine years. At our level, we showed good results in Gondomar.”

With nine goals in 15 appearances for Liverpool, the Portuguese looks like a real transfer hit. The Reds agreed to pay милиони 41m for it to Wolverhampton in September. He became the first player in the history of the club to score in the first four home games in the Premier League.

During the injury crisis, Iota was instrumental in keeping Liverpool in contention for the title. He also helped the “reds” to qualify from the group in the Champions League.

Diogu Iota, Getty Images

His dynamics, aggression and attacks on talent made fans and teammates fall in love with him, and assistant coach Pep Linders called the 23-year-old Portuguese a “pressure monster”. Jurgen Klopp says Jote is “easy to sympathize with”.

Diogo is convinced that his steely determination shaped the obstacles he overcame, proving that he can play at the highest level.

He grew up in Masarelos, part of the municipality of Porto. He played football for the Gondomar junior youth team, ten minutes from Estadio to Dragjo, where Porto play.

At the age of 16, Diogo moved to the club in the elite division. It was the modest Pachos de Ferreira. He made his debut at the age of 17 and scored 18 goals in 47 games. However, he was far from the elite galaxy of clubs – Porto, Benfica or Sporting.

“Even though I trained with big clubs, I never stayed there,” he said. “So I was a little disappointed, because I always want to climb higher. But in the end everything worked out great. I think my example shows that you can never give up. That is the main idea.”

“Every experience, every obstacle makes you stronger – this happened in my case. Now, of course, everything is fine, but it was not always this way. You have to constantly strive for what you want to achieve.”

Diogu Iota, Getty Images

As a child, Iota was inspired by the Portuguese national team, which reached the final of their home Euro 2004. There, the team with Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Deco lost to Greece.

“As far back as I can remember, football has always been my passion,” he said. “I remember when I was six years old and my father gave me a swim. I asked him with tears in his eyes to give me football instead, because these hours were one time. I preferred the football field in front of the pool.”

“My first memories are of Euro 2004, when Portugal reached the final. Unfortunately, we lost. I was seven then, I remember those events well.”

Luis Figo, Getty Images

“Cristiano Ronaldo was my hero. He was 19 at the time, but he already played very well at Euro. In my childhood he played for Manchester United and Real Madrid. We, the Portuguese, always looked up to him as our prime example.” …

Iota was still a teenager when Atletico Madrid signed him with Pacos in 2015. He was eager to show what he is capable of, but after a pre-season under Diego Simeone he was loaned to Porto for the 2016/17 season.

Diogo has never played an official match for Atletico. A second loan spell at Wolverhampton followed, which eventually bought the player for ,3 12.3m and in 2018 helped the club return to the Premier League.

“I do not regret moving to Atletico,” said the Portuguese. “They played in the Champions League final last season. To be able to go there and go to the previous season with the first team meant a lot to me, I learned a lot.”

“Yes, I could have expected the best, but I do not regret it. In the end, it turned out that the best option for my career was to leave. Every experience allows me to grow both in the game and in person. Although it was not what was expected at the beginning, useful a lesson can be learned from everything. “

Diogu Iota, Getty Images

After three seasons at Wolverhampton, Iota was ready for the next step. On that September day, when Diogo moved to Liverpool, his message to Reds fans was: “You can count on me, because I’m one of you now. “I will do everything in my power.”

Ottawa has definitely kept that promise. Among other things, his collection was complemented by a ball from the match against Atalanta – he scored a hat-trick with him on the goal of the Italian club in November.

It usually takes time for beginners to adapt to the tactical requirements of Jurgen Klopp. How did the Portuguese manage to join the new team so quickly?

“When you move to a new club, you have to be open to new ideas, this plays a key role in adaptation,” he said. “The season started at the same time and I had to join the team, not the other way around. I did it. with the help of Jürgen “. …

Diogo Iota and Jurgen Klopp, Getty Images

“Klopp is a fantastic coach, he takes care of me. When I first moved, we had a meeting, Jurgen talked about how the team is organized. And then it is up to the player to do everything to learn as quickly as possible and prove it to him. to the coach that it’s worth it “.

“Liverpool have a great list. Team captain Jordan Henderson was key. When he found out I was transferring, he sent me a message and then he helped me a lot.”

“Brazilians speak the same language as me, so Fabinho, Roberto Firmino and Alison helped a lot. Adrian, like me, speaks Spanish. We have a great team and this is the basis for success.”

Our conversation with otaota takes place on Zoom. He is joined by Nunu Mura, Chief Marketing Officer of the Portuguese Football Federation, who is quite competent in talking about Diogo’s rating increase in his country.

Since making his international debut a year ago, Diogo has scored three goals in 10 games. He inspires the next generation just as he once inspired Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Getty Image

“All the fans love Dioga. They are delighted with the heights he has achieved at such a young age,” said Moura. “He plays for the reigning English champions. is also in the national team. “

“The satisfaction is due not only to the fact that Diogo is an amazing footballer, but also to the fact that he is a very modest, hard-working boy. Everyone sees and respects this. We hope that everything will continue to work for him, that he will “brought this success to the national team and will help them win several titles.”

Iota spends a lot of time playing football, but Jurgen Klopp has no need to worry about his pursuit. Diogo is a big fan of computer games, especially FIFA and Football Manager.

“Ever since my dad gave me the PlayStation, it has been another passion of mine. I have always played console football. I have liked games where you can manage your team. In the world of computer games, three things are combined: my passion for football, competing with other people and managing. “

“You can build a great world if you play responsibly. It can be a profession, but it has always been a hobby for me. I have time for other things.”

In April, Iota became the FIFA Premier League champions, beating Trent Alexander-Arnold in the final, thanks to the golden rule. The rematch is definitely not far away.

Diogo Iota and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Getty Images

“I think Trent wants revenge. Let’s see how our next match goes,” said the Portuguese. I have not played teammates in Liverpool yet. We have little time with the current schedule. “

“I also like managerial games. I think Football Manager is the best of its kind. I’m waiting for the new title to start playing again. I’m sure I will find something to do with this game.”

Moura adds: “I have to say, Diogo is a damn good player – both on the pitch and on the console! Although it is just a hobby for him, he is a professional footballer with a lot of responsibilities, he plays great on the console. He not only won the Premier League. league, but also played well against some of our sports players who are in the top 10 in the world for playing FIFA. “I know Diogo is a modest boy, but he is very good with a joystick.”

Ottawa’s ambitions are far from the football fields. He is working on a new business sports project that he hopes to launch in 2021.

“I had a lot of free time. Quarantine made us think. I started staring at e-athletes, how they do everything. It helped to improve my game, because I learned something from them. And I started thinking, why not this.”

“Now my team and I want to get into this business. We have great conditions. I hope it will soon be possible to do something worthwhile.”

Diogu Iota, Getty Images

Portugal is a nation that has long jumped on its head. They hope that otaota’s progress will allow it to be done again at the upcoming European Championship.

Having an advanced football federation definitely helps players to progress. FFP has its own TV channel and established a university, which has helped raise the standards for coaches even at the amateur level, and eSport helps to establish contact with young people.

“We are a country of 10 million people. If you look at the number of registered players in Portugal, it is just over 200,000,” Mura explained. “As you can see, we can not afford to lose any talent. They need to be nurtured. And smarter than the bigger countries.”

“Portugal is now the European champion and winner of the League of Nations, but our federation includes the current European champions in futsal, as well as world and European champions in beach soccer. Different age groups are successful in several variants of football.”

“We see incredible talent like Diogo coming into the lead with fantastic quality play. This means Portugal can have a bright future, but we need to stay one step ahead of the game.”

“The growth of the sport allows us to attract a lot of young people who have a passion for the game. Today, almost 300 clubs are registered in the ecosystem of the Portuguese Football Federation. 30,000 people are registered to play eSport regularly. We see this more as a supplement. “than a competitor to traditional football.”

Iota nods.

It is a busy moment for the Liverpool striker. The games go one after the other, and fatherhood awaits him on the horizon. His girlfriend Ruth is due to give birth to her first child in February.

“This is going to be another great moment in my life,” Diogo said. “Very soon. I will be there when he is born. My girlfriend and I are looking forward to this special moment in our lives.”

Diogo will meet old friends from Wolverhampton on Sunday. For the first time since March, there will be Anfield fans – two thousand people will be able to attend the match with the team of Nuno Espirito Santo.

Iota enjoys a bright start in Liverpool, but admits something is missing.

“I think football without fans is weird,” he said. “When you play for a club like Liverpool, with some of the best fans in the world, it is clear that there is a sense that something is missing. We talk a lot with the players and staff about it.”

“What I rejoice most about is when I feel the effect of Anfield.” I can not tell you how much. So far, I have not had that feeling, but I hope it will happen soon. “Football is worthless without fans.”

James James Pierce, Athletic

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