"What do you mean you've hurt 'your' knee, it's Liverpool's knee" - Bill Shankly.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Torres's Story

Exclusive: My secrets, by Fernando Torres

Published 23:36 13/09/09 By James Fletcher 

Penny Lane must have seemed a million miles away from Madrid to the young Spanish schoolboy.

So too, the ‘Yellow Submarine’ that Fernando Torres sang about with his brother as they recited Beatles hits passed down from their father Jose.

Indeed, ‘El Nino’, would not even have known who the Fab Four were given his tender years or what it was they were singing about. But he loved their tunes all the same. And that was all that mattered.

Had anyone told him just how intricately linked he would ultimately become with Liverpool’s most famous sons and he would have laughed it off as madness. Liverpool? He’d never even heard of it. Yet the city was to become his second home. His future. The platform for his footballing dreams and the Beatles back catalogue was to become his Bible.

He said: “One of the biggest problems I faced when I first moved to Liverpool was the language barrier. My English was limited to the classes I had taken at school in Fuenlabrada. You think you know a bit of English and that you can get by but when you actually arrive in England you soon realise that you haven’t really got a clue.

“I was told to be honest and say; ‘I didn’t catch that, could you say it again?’ but the truth is I didn’t always take that advice. I nearly always just mumbled a ‘no’. That’s what I did whenever I was in the supermarket and was asked if I wanted ‘cash back’. It’s not something we have in Spain and I had no idea what it was. It was three months before I knew what they were talking about.

“One afternoon, the way back from having lunch we decided to go shopping. I’d been told about Costco and so we decided to go in and have a look. As we were going through the door, the security guard stopped. We assumed he was asking for a member’s card that we didn’t have and so, not be able to explain in English, we just turned and left without a word. The next day I was told if you’re not a member you can’t shop there.

“Two people were vital during my first few days in the city: Rob and Alan, the English teachers Liverpool laid on for me. One of the things they used to make me do was ring people in response to adverts in the paper. You’d get on the phone and ask about a puppy for sale, or that kitten being advertised, or the price of a second hand car.

“The idea was to get me used to speaking in English on the phone but at first the idea terrified me. So much so that I would panic when I didn’t understand something and find myself having to ring Pepe Reina.

“The car radio became my constant travelling companion. Every morning on my way to training at Melwood, I would listen and try to concentrate on what was being said. At first I only understood a few words but bit by bit I could feel myself improving. As I went past billboards I would try to translate them, too, and with every passing day I was getting better and better.

“Some nights, I even dared to pick up the phone and order food. When it turned up, it was nearly always what I wanted. When we were in hotels preparing for games I watched films in English with the subtitles on. The other thing I always carried with me was ‘English Training’ on my Nintendo DS - language games and exercises that helped me develop my English.

“I was terrified at the prospect of having to have a conversation on the phone. Imagine how much worse it is when that conversation is with the fire service! My smoke alarm kept going off in the house I was renting and one afternoon I got a call. I just about worked out that the man on the other end was from the local fire station but I didn’t understand anything else. A few minutes later a fire engine turned up at the house, packed with fireman thinking they were being called into action.

“They came three times in three days before they worked out that the smoke from cooking was causing the alarm to go off prematurely. The next time the alarm went off, they called me first to check whether they really did have to set off again.”

“I like the Beatles a lot. Before I ever imagined that I would end up in Liverpool, I listened to their songs. Now I’ve rediscovered them because listening to them has helped me to pick up the language more quickly. My favourite songs are ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’.”

A giant 51-foot long, 15-foot high, 18 tons steel Yellow Submarine, replica built to commemorate the famous song, greeted Torres upon arrival at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport.

Torres found himself immersed in Liverpool’s history, it’s culture, walking the famous streets, from Princess Dock to Victoria Street, taking time to enjoy Matthew Street and the Beatles tour, though he is still to visit the Cavern Club.

“What can I say about the legendary band, a symbol of the city? There’s not much I can add, although it did strike me that – despite what you might imagine – people in Liverpool aren’t constantly talking about the Beatles and their success,” he added.

“People have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for them, because everyone in London is conscious of the fact that the Beatles and Liverpool FC have taken the name of the city round the world.”

Torres is not your average footballer. There will be no tabloid tales of bad boy behaviour, no sordid nightclub tales or weekly pictures of his latest supercar. Nights in playing cards, watching television with his stunning wife Olalla Dominguez Liste, or even a bit of DIY? Now you’re talking.

He explained: “I’m very much a homely person. I am at my most comfortable and relaxed there. One of my favourite moments each day, matches permitting, is the evening stroll with Olalla (my wife) and our two dogs. They’re English bulldogs, a male called Pomo and a female called Llanta. We have found a couple of parks near where we live that are relaxed and peaceful, offering a real escape.

“At home, we spend time playing board games with friends and family. When it comes to Monopoly, Scatergory, or Hotel, there are real battles. For a change, we sometimes play cards, even though I’m not one for the typical footballer’s game like poker or the games played with a 40-card Spanish deck, like mus or pocha. But I do enjoy playing brisca and tute, Spanish games similar to trumps.

“Television is an alternative and I like to be up to date with what’s going on in the world, and not just the sports news. My favourite programmes are ‘The Dog Whisperer’ and ‘Super Nanny’.

“I love Stanley Park, the one that divides Anfield and Goodison and which I got to know when I went to film the Spanish number 9 advert for Nike there. I’ve also been to Chester, and to Formby on the coast where, weather permitting, I like to devour a Flake 99, with raspberry sauce.

“We have adapted perfectly to Liverpool but when it comes to eating we still follow a Spanish timetable. Eating at English times still feels too early so we started arranging barbeques. A few of us got together along with Mikel Arteta from Everton. One Sunday we started eating in the garden, it was a sunny day with the odd cloud and we didn’t think anything of it....until the heavens opened and it started snowing. Yes, snowing! Since then, the slightest sign of bad weather and we set up in the garage instead.

“During my first few months in Liverpool I seemed to be permanently surrounded by hammers, screwdrivers, pliers and spanners as I discovered a new hubby: putting together furniture. There were tools everywhere.

“In Spain I hadn’t put together a single wardrobe but here in England I found myself in the position where I either had to get on and do it or the box would just gather dust. Sometimes, I would end up getting so irritated I would end up crawling to bed shattered – but with the world done.

“My determination to finish the job off meant that one night in 2007 I didn’t finish until the small hours. I had come home in a bad mood after we had lost 1-0 at home to Olympic Marseilles in the Champions League. I decided the best way to work the frustration out of my system was to put together two pieces of furniture for the living room. By the time I had finished it was 4am.

“I haven’t experienced Liverpool’s nightlife. I have been out a couple of times to eat after Champions League matches and you can see there’s a lot going on. One thing that does surprise me is that no one seems to wear a coat. Everyone is done up and dressed to impress but few of them wrap up warm, even though the temperature can’t be much above freezing. One thing that I would like to do is watch a game in the pub. Everyone tells me about the passion with which fans follow matches between pints.”

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Quote of the moment

Defying belief however, is a market Benitez has cornered quite well. The moment you think Benitez is clueless, he defies it by pulling off a result of majesty, like the one achieved in Madrid. The moment he is hailed a genius, he masterminds toothless surrender to a team going nowhere. In the ongoing Anfield power struggle, just when he was cornered by the firing squad, the Spaniard's demise at Liverpool looking practically assured with the ominous suspension of betting by the bookmakers, he squeezes out through a narrow trapdoor and eliminates Rick Parry. Rafa Benitez is Keyzer Soze.
- Just Football blog: The Curious Beast that is Football 28 Feb 2009