Spain coach Luis Enrique opens up at World Cup
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Bicycle rides. Streaming sessions. Instagram posts.
Honest talks about sex, politics and his late daughter.
Luis Enrique, not long ago seen as one of the most uptight coaches in soccer, has opened up at the World Cup.
He has been more accessible than ever in Qatar, showing his lighter side and giving unprecedented insights about himself.
While the matches go on, the 52-year-old Luis Enrique has been going out of his way to connect with fans and talk about the most varied — and controversial — subjects.
“Good morning. It’s Day 20 at the training camp,” he said in a video filmed by himself and posted on Instagram Saturday. “I start the morning in the best possible way, going to the gym. It’s about 7:20 a.m. and I would like to greet all fans, especially those in Barcelona who get together to watch the matches of the national team.”
He finished the video by singing part of a song that he said represented Spain’s hopes of staying in Qatar until the final.
Luis Enrique has clearly put in the effort to change his image.
He surprised everyone when he announced before the World Cup that he would be doing some live streaming on Twitch during the tournament. His number of followers in the platform went from about 50,000 to more than 790,000 since his announcement.
“Streamers of the world, move aside,” he had said.
It’s been during his streams that the coach has talked openly about some provocative subjects.
Luis Enrique said he allows players to have sex before matches because it’s “something very normal” as long as they don’t get “into an orgy the night before a match, which would not be ideal.”
He talked a few times about the relationship of his older daughter with Spain forward Ferran Torres, joking that he would drop the player from the squad immediately if he scored a goal and then celebrated in any way alluding to a baby.
The coach also delved into politics at one point, giving advice to local politicians and saying they should all leave their posts if they can’t fulfill at least half of their promises in the first year.
In another stream, he didn’t hesitate to answer a fan’s question on whether he wore boxers or briefs “I wear thongs! You don’t wear thongs?” he said with a big laugh. “It’s a joke — if my wife sees this she will kill me.”
Luis Enrique, who runs Ironman triathlons and has posted a few photos of him shirtless and in good shape while in Qatar, also talked about his diet, food preferences, dating sites and soccer concepts. He promised to get a piercing and dye his hair if Spain wins the World Cup.
The coach said he will eventually donate what he earns with his streams.
On Instagram, Luis Enrique has often posted images of his bicycle rides in Qatar, including one by the Lusail Stadium where the World Cup final will be played — he said “hopefully we’ll be there” to try to win the title.
Luis Enrique has always been an avid biker, and in a call-up of Spain’s squad before the World Cup, he announced the names of the players in a prerecorded video while pedaling through backcountry roads near Madrid.
It was in one of the posts of his rides that Luis Enrique remembered his late daughter Xana Martínez, who died three years ago from a rare form of bone cancer. He sent her well wishes from his bike in Qatar the day she would have turned 13.
Later in a post-match news conference, Luis Enrique opened up about the “special day” for him and his family.
“Obviously we don’t have our daughter with us physically anymore, but she is still present every day,” he said. “We remember her a lot, we laugh and think about how she would act in each situation that we experience.”
The former Barcelona player and coach temporarily left the national team after finding out about his daughter’s cancer.
This is Luis Enrique’s first World Cup as a coach, and he is trying to lead Spain to its second world title. La Roja will face Morocco in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Some have said Luis Enrique’s change has been part of a bigger marketing strategy by the Spanish soccer federation to improve the image of the national team. But he guarantees it has all come very naturally to him.
“This is me,” he said, dismissing a fan who suggested the coach was drunk while streaming.
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