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From a dust pitch to Anfield

From a dust pitch to Anfield

Luis Diaz is making the headlines as Liverpool’s latest star signing. But his background is far from what you would expect.


Transcript

Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world of football.

Today, How Luis Diaz went  from playing on dust pitches in a small town in Colombia to Anfield.

***

When you’re trying to keep up with Manchester City in the title race, the last thing you want is to go one-nil down at home to bottom of the table Norwich.

But that’s exactly what happened to Liverpool on Saturday.

“Rashica…and the deflection takes it in! When you fail to score at one end, you get a sucker punch and a deflection at the other.”

Liverpool FC

Luckily for the home crowd, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah soon put Liverpool 2-1 up. 

The icing on the cake?

That came from new signing Luis Diaz, who scored his first goal since joining from Porto in January.

“Well that is for Luiz Diaz! That’s the moment this crowd’s been waiting for! Luis Diaz announces himself to Anfield with a beautiful finish at the Kop End.”

Liverpool FC

And it wasn’t just the goal that Liverpool fans were pleased with. 

Luis Diaz gave a brilliant performance all round. He made 13 touches in the Norwich box. He created five chances. 

And he worked hard for the team, too. He recovered the ball six times in the 90 minutes he played.

***

Maybe that’s what you’d expect from a player who was reported to have cost Liverpool in the region of forty five million pounds. 

Luis Diaz arrived from Porto, where he’d already scored sixteen goals in the first half of this season. 

“And they’re waiting for the foul there which doesn’t come! But a goal does! Luis Diaz! What a big moment that could be. Porto ahead, Luis Diaz with the true strike, Milan fuming that there wasn’t a foul awarded by Felix Brych. The Colombian wasn’t hanging around though. His finish makes it 1-0 Porto.”

UEFA TV

So far, so unremarkable. While this is all good news for Liverpool fans, it’s not exactly headline news that the Reds have signed a good player. 

That is until you consider where Luis Diaz came from, which is remarkable.

***

Luis Diaz is from Barrancas, in the La Guajira region of Colombia. 

 He grew up there as part of an indigenous tribe called Wayuu… 100 kilometres from the nearest town and with no TV.

“He played football for the team set up by his family, his family kind of ran the village team and he would play in that team every day, but it’s a very simple background. It’s a region of the country that has a lot of poverty. I think 40 children died of malnutrition in the last year…”

Rabona TV

We know that Premier League clubs usually sign players to their academies at the age of nine. Luis Diaz was still playing on dust pitches in his home town at the age of 17. 

It would seem almost impossible that he would ever be discovered, never mind end up in the Premier League. But he was, and he did.

***

In 2015 Colombian football icon, Carlos Valderrama was hosting a tournament in Chile.

“It was complete luck really, basically Colombia were putting together a team to play in the Copa America of indigenous people in Chile. So because his family were running the local football team, they got the invitation to send a few guys over for the trial. He turns up at the trial, they look at him and go, this guy is too skinny, he’s severely underweight, he’s not really going to be able to play but we’ll let him join the training, we’ll see what he can do.”

Rabona TV

In the end, Luis Diaz was allowed to play. And he was the star of the tournament. 

Carlos Valderrama took Luis Diaz to Atletico Junior in the top flight of Colombian football. But he was malnourished. He was quickly put on a diet to gain ten kilos and sent to another club – Barranquilla – for one season. 

It wasn’t until Luis Diaz was twenty that he made a senior appearance for Junior… and two years later he moved to Portugal to play for Porto. 

***

In the 2021 Copa America, Luis Diaz finished as top scorer alongside Lionel Messi. His spectacular goal – an overhead kick – was nominated for this year’s Puskas award.

In last year’s Champions League group stages, Jurgen Klopp first came up against Luiz Diaz. 

Liverpool played Porto in September and November of last year, and reports suggested that they were lining up a bid for the winger in summer 2022.

When Tottenham also joined the race to sign Luiz Diaz, Liverpool moved quickly to get the deal done. And that’s why he moved to Anfield this January. 

At the age of 25, his Premier League career is just getting going, but he’s come a long way from that dust pitch in Barrancas just seven years ago. 

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Hannah Varrall.