I’ve interviewed a few footballers in my time and even the polite ones can’t hide the fact that they’d rather be somewhere else.
Sometimes, when they’re faced with a scrum of reporters asking stupid questions and quite literally fighting for every inch of space, I totally get it.
Sometimes, in a one-on-one arranged by their sponsors, they make it plain they are going through the motions.
Sometimes, when they can, like in the mixed zone, they take the opportunity to simply just ignore you.
Worst of all is when they unthinkingly trot out cliches that have little to do with the questions you’ve just asked them.
Which is why I absolutely adored David Luiz.
I can’t pretend to know him. But I came across him recently and he was everything the players alluded to above are not.
We were in a scrum of reporters. In these situations, reporters shout out questions the split second there’s a pause. (And sometimes before there’s a pause.) Everyone is speaking on top of each other. The players have to decide which person to answer and which to ignore. Usually the one shouting the loudest is the one that gets the attention.
There was about 30 of us standing in front of Luiz and I asked my question at exactly the same time as another girl on my left. Luiz looked at me, motioned to hold on a second, and turned to address the girl. He answered two or three of her questions.
The second she finished everybody shouted out new questions. Luiz held up his hands to them all as if to say, Wait a second. And turned to me.
I was taken aback. It was such a small gesture, but such a polite one, and so alien to every other press scrum I’d ever been in, that I almost forgot my question.
I’ve seen him a few times since then both on and off the field and and he has never been anything less than polite and charming. The way he comforted James Rodriguez after Brazil had beaten Colombia was impressive.
In a world where footballers’ world view is seen through the selfie and where worth is measured solely in pounds and euros, Luiz is a star.
He’s no Pat Stanton, but he’s almost enough to restore my faith in footballers.