Interview by Bruno Pisano for Soccer America
Lionel Messi is one of 55 soccer superstars featured in Bruno Pisano's book, "My Son The Soccer Player: The Secrets of the World's Greatest Players as Told by Their Parents." In this excerpt, Pisano spoke with Jorge Messi about his son’s early years.
BRUNO PISANO: At what age did Lionel start to kick the soccer ball?
JORGE MESSI: That I remember well. At the age of 4 he already had the ball at his feet.
BP: When did you think that he had the potential for a professional career?
JORGE MESSI: We never really thought about it until he was 11 years old, and then he thought that he’d dedicate himself to soccer. He always played for fun and we were happy to see him play not because we thought he’d be a triumphant success but simply because he enjoyed it and did it well.
BP: What were the obstacles he faced in his first years?
JORGE MESSI: If we’re talking about his early years – from the age of 4 through to 11 – he didn’t have many obstacles. He had some growth issues but they didn’t influence his selection prospects too much.
BP: How did he handle fame?
JORGE MESSI: Thank God, he handled it very well. We don’t believe anything that they say or write about him -- he ignores it because he knows that he’s the same person he’s always been.
BP: Did he ever think of giving up on soccer?
JORGE MESSI: No. The truth is he never once wanted to quit. He always loved soccer and always wanted to play it.
BP: How did you motivate him?
JORGE MESSI: In reality we never really tried to motivate him in anything because he had a very personal sense of motivation. He always loved soccer and he always trains with enthusiasm. It’s very personal for him: no one else was really included in his soccer ambitions.
BP: What moments of his career made you the proudest?
JORGE MESSI: I always say the same: what makes me proud is who Leo is as a person. Of course as he’s triumphed in the sport of soccer we are proud of him, but what we care about most is that he’s a good person: I, my mother and his sisters are all proud of him for that. His success elsewhere is a consequence of who he is.
BP: Would you have loved your son if he wasn’t a soccer player?
JORGE MESSI: Of course! I would have loved him just the same.
BP: Do you think his talents are innate or due to working hard?
JORGE MESSI: There is a part that is personal and innate, but also a part that’s due to his sacrifices and hard work.
BP: What advice can you give parents so that their kids may be as important as yours?
JORGE MESSI: In reality I don’t know if what I have to say is advice. I always say that the kids, at one point in their life, have to decide what they want to do. You can help them in choosing a decision but ultimately it’s up to them.
In terms of advice, let kids play and have fun: don’t put pressure on them. If the child is ready then they’ll make their own decision.