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May 26, 2014

How family shaped David Luiz

David Luiz helped Brazil win a third straight Confederations Cup title last summer on home soil.
David Luiz helped Brazil win a third straight Confederations Cup title last summer on home soil.

Imagine the scene: the defender of the Brazilian soccer team, hair flowing, on top of the table in the middle of the classroom, dancing in his underwear.

"It was the only time that they called me from school. It was the time the soap opera 'Clube das Mulheres' ('Women's Club') was on TV. He justified this by saying "Is it not on television? I saw it in 'Clube das Mulheres' and did the same,'" says Mrs. Regina, the mother of the uninhibited character in question.

David Luiz maybe didn't have his characteristic haircut yet and was many years from becoming the renowned player at Chelsea and now with PSG. But the episode says something about the side of the athlete that, when on the field, is not afraid to dribble past a striker in front of his area or to go out with the ball to the opponent's field.

- Marcotti: Decoding Luiz's PSG move

"David has always been extremely extroverted, he's always had a spirit of leadership," says Mrs. Regina, which, according to her own words, created her son, "along with the world." Dismissed from the base categories of Sao Paulo -- "The boys who had no manager would play for ten minutes and get out; this happened a lot with my son," said the father, Mr. Ladislau, to the program 'Historias do Esport' (Sport Stories) from ESPN Brazil -- the defender tried his luck for a few months in the Vila Guarani team from Diadema, his hometown, and at age 13 went to live in Salvador to play in the Vitoria team.

Contacting the family was only possible using public phones. The financial constraints made it difficult to travel to the state of Bahia. Only two visits were made to their child in two-and-a-half years of him living in the Northeast. From Sao Paulo, his parents worried that their boy would continue to be let down in the world of soccer, without stopping to encourage him.

"We got very mad when he left Sao Paulo, but we did not let it show. I always told him, in our life we have two options, yes and no. You already go waiting for a no, if you get a yes, then it's a profit. And also never regret the things that you didn't do. Do it; if it doesn't work out, fall flat on your face and try again," recalls Mrs. Regina.

From a distance, values were taught that David Luiz demonstrates when crossing safety lines to chat with fans or when politely confronting crowds of microphones and cameras from the press after a defeat from his club or the Brazilian soccer team.

"People are people. Any person, from the janitor until the head boss, everyone deserves a 'good morning'. If the garbage man does the wrong thing, I'm going to argue with him as I'm going to argue with the mayor and anybody that does the wrong thing," were the teachings of his mother, a teacher in public schools.

"The foundation of soccer, I passed on to him. I would pick up a ball and go to a field while his mother and sister were in the pool. I would show how to dominate a ball, how to kick with the left leg, with the right one, taught him to hit a penalty kick, foul. And he's staring at the swimming pool, wanting to go swimming. I would say, 'when we achieve what I want, we'll go.'" Those were the teachings of his father, also a public school teacher.

David Luiz learned other lessons from the life and soccer while he progressed in the Vitoria team until he was 20 years old, when he drew attention from Benfica and went to live in Portugal. The trips to Lisbon were also extremely rare. Four years working at a high level in Portuguese soccer took the defender to Chelsea.

The economic situation today is much more comfortable, but the mother, already retired, still prefers to stay in Brazil. "Our country is our country, right? I've been to London a few times. David is not very fond of night clubs, but when I was there I went with him in one to find out how it's like."

Mrs. Regina continues to follow her son's steps closely. The many miles between mother and son were never a problem and they still are not today. "I have already said that he will not marry before he is 28 or 30 years old. If it weren't for me, he would probably already have married. There are a lot of candidates -- they call me 'sogrinha' (mother-in-law)... If I was him I would only get married after retirement."