As Spain prepare for Tuesday’s World Cup round of 16 tie against Morocco, much of the country’s attention is on boss Luis Enrique and his decision to talk about everything and nothing on the social media site Twitch.
Across the country, hundreds of thousands of people have tuned in to his almost daily broadcasts – as the former Spain midfielder sits in a gaming chair with headphones on, answering any questions that come his way.
As well as finding out about his football philosophy, we also learned that he eats six eggs a day, that he hates cheese – despite being from Asturias, Spain’s dairy capital – what his restaurants are favorites and that he sleeps naked.
As fans and media cling to every word of the Spanish coach, they leave his talented group of elite footballers to focus on the main task at hand: winning Spain’s second World Cup.
His reasons for his regular streams? He wants to change people’s perception of him.
“Talking to all of you was a big surprise,” he said. “Until now, your opinion of me has been conditioned by when you saw me with the press. Now there are no more filters. It also helps me to receive information, affection, criticism, questions from all of you.
“I don’t claim to love everyone…no one is perfect, we all have our flaws. But what surprised me the most was the energy I received from you. I now have more support than I have ever had in my entire life.
“If we win the World Cup, I’ll answer any questions you ask – most of which I know will be about sex. I’ll answer everything.”
So let’s dive into Enrique’s universe in his own words, based on the questions his followers ask him.
“Analyzing what you should have done after the event is easy”
Enrique on his thorny relationship with the media: “I don’t read journalists’ opinions – not out of disrespect, but because logically they haven’t even spent 10% of the time, nor do they have the information that my staff and I have on a given issue.
“Analyzing what you should have done after the event is easy. The coaches and those who have the task of making the decisions have to make them when there’s a lot going on. I’m used to it – it’s an essential part of my work and I like it.
“If, for example, I make a bad decision – say, with a substitution – I take it on board as one of those things because there’s no point in blaming yourself. The important thing is to make a decision at the exact moment when you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
‘I’m so stupid’
How does he see himself as a coach? “I’m a modest man with my feet on the ground – but clearly I think I’m a good coach because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing this job.
“I’m a very competitive person and the worse things get, the more my competitive gene comes to the surface. I’m more comfortable when I have to deal with problems. That’s my essence, in difficult times. I’m so stupid.
“Football is my passion, my life, and I was very lucky to be able to play football. I really like being a coach, but it has been more difficult to enjoy it.”
What should he improve as a coach? “Everything. I’m super critical of myself. When I say something to a player twice and he still doesn’t do it, I have to realize that the fault is not his but mine for not explain it correctly. [So I] change the way I get my message across.”
Many of Enrique’s coaching attitudes stem from his childhood at Sporting Gijon from where he was unceremoniously dumped after playing very little for two seasons because he was deemed too thin and small.
“Those coaches who sacrifice the development of the child for the vanity of trophies and their own progression in the game, should not be involved in youth football.”
“Why bother them? It will be my fault if we lose’
What’s good about Enrique’s team and the team behind the scenes? “Once you’ve chosen a player because of his ability, it’s also important that it comes with the right personality.
“I’m not saying everyone here has to be submissive – in fact, I like someone with personality, with character. I want someone who will represent the country properly, something that will be useful for now but also for future generations.
“We know how we want to play to own the ball and the rival has to get tired looking for it. The idea is to try to dominate the game from start to finish. It will be my fault if we lose.”
When talking about Spain’s style, which sees them playing from the back, he makes no apologies.
“Of course it’s risky when you play from the back, but when you balance that style against others it’s a risk worth taking because it defines the game in the areas where we we are the strongest I choose players who are happier with the ball I know people think that when you have the ball you have to clear it as far as you can but the ball comes back to you within 20 seconds .
“Never forget it’s a spectacle and very often we are obsessed with winning. We believe there are more options to win by playing well, using a style that is entertaining for both the player and the viewer.”
“I think in football we seem to have lost our way. The first thing coaches have to teach is that it’s a show, a show. There are 50,000, 100,000 people in a stadium and millions watching at home, they are an important part of what we do. We play for them – so why bother them?”
The tragedy and importance of family
Throughout his broadcasts, Enrique was keen to remind everyone of the importance of each person in the Spanish camp: “In addition to the coach and the 26 players, there are also around 60 people involved in the operation. family.”
When Enrique says ‘family, there in good times and bad, are your friends, they’re always with you – that’s the basis of a team’, you feel he’s not just talking about football .
Family is, in fact, what matters most to him. The cruelties of life have served to remind him of what is most important. He always had his priorities more than clear, but the death of his beloved nine-year-old daughter from bone cancer strengthened them like nothing else could have.
Spain faced Germany on what would have been Xana’s 13th birthday. In an Instagram video while riding his bike, Enrique said, “Love, wherever you are, lots of kisses from us, have a great day! We love you!”
His approach to this tragedy, bringing normalcy and calm to something that derails so many, was one of many examples that he is a different person than the audience saw.
For him, football is a game, watched by many, a high-level job – but never a matter of life or death. “Always remember that out of 32 teams, there will only be one winner. At the end of the day, your family is still there.”
“I like to see the players laughing and dancing”
Enrique talks a lot about the psychological side of the game: “If the player can see you’re relaxed, that gets passed on to them.
“I like that the players listen to music on the bus on the way to the game and in the dressing rooms. After all, it’s a party. In my time, it bothered some of the people I worked with.
“If we were all sitting in silence, I would say, ‘Are we all going to the slaughterhouse?’ It’s a party and I like to see the players laughing and dancing.
“The player who wants to pray, let him. Meditate, but also smile, laugh, joke, until the game.”
Football is not his only activity
What does Enrique do away from football? “I always do sports when I get up. Not a day goes by that I don’t do something. Half an hour, 15 minutes, whatever. I think it’s vital for me to be able to do my job correctly., and being happy with my own state of being. It’s also a healthy way to achieve positive momentum.
“I don’t go on a diet, I eat the foods that I like and which are healthy. The players had a barbecue yesterday. If they wish, they can have a small glass of wine, but normally they drink wine. ‘water.
It’s not about applying stupid rules. What’s the point of me telling a player not to have a beer and he goes home and drinks five?”
Nothing is forbidden in these conversations. Asked about sex before matches, he replies: “The team are obviously in their hotel, away from it all, so clearly that’s not possible – but that’s completely normal activity, isn’t it?
“When they’re at their clubs, the players sleep at home. It’s a matter of common sense, players being with their partners within the parameters of normality. I think people should live their lives as normal. As a player, when we weren’t at prep camp, whenever I could with my wife, we did what we had to do.”