Saturday, June 21, 2008

Luis Figo 7 the Pride of Portugal
Luis Figo story
Luis Figo Foundation
private Figo
about figo

The day of the 4 of November 1972 should become a very magic date for the football world. But back then nobody seems to realize what happened in Almada, a working place in the south of Lisbon. Luis Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo was born. At that time, nobody could have guessed that this baby would later amaze not only the football fans of Portugal, but all over the world!
He grew up as a pretty normal kid, blond hair and a round face, in Almada, a place big dreams normally have no space. But Figo maybe knew he should do better. He wasn’t very good in school, the normal kid, he would later admit. But there was something special about this boy, small, thin and shy, that would later let him be worth 61 million Euros. He could handle a ball better then all the other kids he knew. So with the age of 10 Figo joined a very bad hobby football team called “Barrocas B.” They lost the most of their games. But as Figo said later: “It was not about winning. We were friends. And that was the best thing about it.” But no matter if they lost or won, Figo knew that he wanted to play football. That was the only time when the shy boy felt bigger then he might have been! Soon he was too good for the “Barrocas B.” and so he needed to look for something better. He found his destination in playing for the “Os Pastilhas”. The first official club he ever played at. From 1984 to 1985 he was a member of that team, learned new tricks and got better with every game.
But it wasn’t long till the name “FIGO” reached over the river Tejo to Lisbon, the place were football dreams may come true. Now it was the question witch one of the big clubs would sign the new talent of the Portuguese football named Figo. Benfica or Sporting? Figos father a huge Benfica fan would have loved to see his son playing for the Club that was made big by the name of Eusebio, Portugal’s football legend and hero. But it was the green and the white of Sporting Lisbon that would become Figos first club to teach him how professional football works. In 1984 he finally was old enough to start in the youth team of Sporting!
And it was there where he got the best tip by a coach. “Great players make their teammates shine!” And that was something Figo would keep in his mind not only playing for Sporting, but forever. Still it wasn’t easy for Figo. He had to cross the Tejo every time, taking the subway and train with his new club. He was still pretty small and skinny. He had to work hard, harder then the rest, and make his way into the front row! And he did! On the 1st of July in 1990, with just 17 years, he made his debut for the first team of Sporting. And till the year of 1995 he was a devoted part of that team. While playing for Sporting he played 139 games ( 9 European Cup games), scored 16 goals. In 1995 he won the Portuguese cup with Sporting, his biggest success with that club!
So it was just a question of time till the national team wanted Figo to wear the green and red of his country. In 1989 he won the under 16 European Cup with Portugal, playing along his friend Rui Costa, a player he get to know very well. Rui Costa played for Benfica the time Figo played for Sporting. They played together for the youth national team and their story should continue not only on the pitch, but also in a deep friendship. Rui Costa, a typical number 10, was the perfect director in the midfield of the national team, giving and taking passes of the winger Figo. Soon wearing the number 7 witch made him famous!
In 1991 he won the under 20 World Cup with Portugal and along his friend Rui Costa. They were called the golden generation, because suddenly Portugal was more than just that little state at the sea. They didn’t just play beautiful football, no, suddenly they were able to win! To beat even Brazil! And this golden generation, lead by Fernando Couto, Luis Figo and Rui Costa should bring glory to Portugal! They seem to have given a promise, witch they should release later... much later...
In 1995, Figo made a mistake. Actually, two. He signed contracts with AC Parma and FC Firenze. So his case was judged by the FIFA and Figo wasn’t allowed to play in the Seria A for two years! Lucky for FC Barcelona. For less than 3 million Euros, they bought Figo and his unbelievable skills. Figo left Portugal for Spain, where he should spend most of his football life.
Arriving at the Nou Camp, Figo easily became the hero of the Catalan fans. The player with the number seven, able to do the step over like nobody else, reading a game, giving passes precise as if the ball was laid to the foot of his teammate by hand and even scoring goals, played for Barca 171 La Liga games, 43 European Cup games and scoring 25 goals in La Liga and 11 goals in the European Cup. The fans of Barca loved Figo with all of the heart! But how couldn’t they? The whole football world loved the best winger of this generation. It wouldn’t take long till he became the captain of the Catalans. And maybe that honor, the love he received would later turn into hate! But back then, he lived a wonderful life in Barcelona. Not only on the pitch, but also his private life everything seems fit together. Figo wasn’t much of a dater. You never saw him with the beauties of the party scene like you might have expected. But then, suddenly, you saw the same beautiful face next to him all the time. Her name? Helen Swedin. They met twice. Well, actually, three times, before their love story came to this wonderful happy end. First Figo saw Helen in a café. He couldn’t take his eyes of off her. But he couldn’t manage to say a word to that beautiful blonde lady with that clear blue eyes.
After some weeks, he couldn’t forget her face, he met her again. Coincidence? No. The met at a Concert and now Figo took all of his courage and spoke with the woman he couldn’t forget. Maybe he was afraid of losing her again for the second time. So they had a nice chat, he gave her his number and she promised to call him. He waited. But no call. Not the next day, not even the next week. But was her face out of his mind? No. Destiny brought them together again! They met a third time at a boxing fight and Figo couldn’t believe his luck. Again it took all of his courage to talk to her. “Please tell me, that you lost my phone number!” Maybe it was his wish, because he was already in love with that women. And she nodded. “I lost your phone number!” So it was his turn again. He gave her his number fort he second time and she called him the very next day. They went out for a coffee. Now, ten years later, she is not only his wife and the mother of his three beautiful daughters, but also the love of his life.
Maybe he needed her more than ever, when, in 2000, he was off, leaving Barcelona do become the first so-called “Galactico” at the great rival Real Madrid. Florentino Perez, willing to become the next Real president, promised to bring Luis Figo, the best player of the world, to Real, if he would be elected! He got elected. And he kept his promise. Barcas number seven crossed this invisible line, the border, like he did years ago, by crossing the Tejo, becoming Reals number 10! But this time, it was much harder. In Barcelona, where he was the most beloved player of a whole generation, the fans cried in pure anger when their beloved player left. They could have lived with him going to Manchester United or AC Milan. Maybe one day they would have forgiven him his move. But Real? He became a Judas. And their love turned into neverending hate! And Figo would soon feel that hate! It was the move of the history! Luis Figo, leaving FC Barcelona for 61 million Euros, to wear the white jersey of Real Madrid! And the first time the world saw Figos name above the number ten of white jersey in the Bernabeu was on the 9th of September 2000. The most expensive player of the world at his new home. And he conquered the pitch and the heart of the fans in a rush! Figo fitted the team perfect! With him on the right wing Real seemed to move forward better, faster and much more dangerous.But the day the whole football world, not only in Spain, would be waiting for, was the 22nd of September in 2000, when Figo would make his comeback at the Nou Camp. Already before the whistle was blown for the much watched “El Classico”, Figo knew it wouldn’t be an easy night out for him. The hate between Barca and Real has always been there. And even other players had crossed the border before Figo, he wrote a new chapter in the “el classico” phenomenon. “I felt like a murder!” Figo said after the night. And he was treated like one. 98.000 fans waiting for him. Willing to hurt him. By throwing bottles after him. Or by words. Writing big posters, trying to insult him, his family, his country!
But Figo, being Figo, held his head up high. For the whole game. Every time his feet touched the ball, the noise in the Nou Camp became louder and louder, as if ten jumbo jets took off. But the most amazing thing about Figo that night was, he never stopped looking for the ball. He never stopped asking for the ball. He didn’t played as good as he had wished to, but he held his head up high! The game had to be interrupted by the police, because Figo, as said before, being Figo, went off to take the corners. One of his many specialties. Suddenly everything that could been thrown, went down on him. Figo, well, you guessed it, being Figo, didn’t react in any form. If there was any form of fear or even anger, he didn’t show it. His face like made of stone. His feelings kept inside. Real lost the game, but that wasn’t important that night. The only thing people were looking at, was Luis Figo. And he did a great job.
By now, Figo has won mostly everything a player can win. He was European footballer of the year 2000 (after a breathtaking performance at the Euro 2000 witch Portugal lost in the semi-final against France by a very doubtful decision), FIFA world player of the year in 2001, Portugal’s player of the years 1995-2000. He has won 4 Ligas, 1 Europe Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup, 2 Spanish Cups, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 3 Spain Supercup, 2 Europe Supercups... and who knows what will come??? Now in May of 2005, being a father of three kids, married to the love of his life, having played 110 times for Portugal (adding some more after announcing his comeback for the national team of Portugal in the game against Slovakia on the 4th of June, after taking a break from international football, after losing the final at the Euro 2004 against Greece!!!), having played for the two major clubs in Spain, it is time for Luis Figo, 32 years old, to think about his future! Real Madrid, the club he has left Barca for, the club he has played on a top level over the time of six years simply doesn’t want him anymore. Why? No one can tell. Tonight, the 21st of May 2005, Luis Figo has played his last game for Real Madrid at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu against Atletico Madrid. He came on the pitch from the bench as a substitute in the 73rd minute of the game. He was benched for now seven games in row, something, that never happened to him in his career before. Real, not showing very much class, by doing so, is clearly pointing him the door. It was a sad goodbye for the first Galactico, for a player like Figo. But he has two more years of high-leveled football ahead. Where ever he will be playing, whatever number he will wear... his fans will follow him! And some strange feeling tells us, that he will be there, at the World Cup 2006 in Germany, leading his country onto the pitch!
That is the story of Luis Figo. The pride of Portugal

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