Luis Suarez’s autobiography, Crossing the Line: My Story, is out now, and with Barcelona in the same Champions League group as Ajax, we thought it was the perfect time to share this extract from Luis as he discusses his time with the Dutch club…
Through everything that happened in my three-and-a-half years at the club the fans at Ajax never turned their back on me. As captain, the standard-bearer of the club, I had let them down with the biting incident. Yet, they had also seen that I played to win to the extent that I felt this tremendous responsibility to transmit that desire to win to the rest of my team-mates. There was no excuse for what I had done, but they appreciated that I always gave everything and many felt that I had instilled that winning mentality into the team. They liked me precisely because I was not what they were used to. I had supporters writing to me to congratulate me on how I had played as their captain and I will always carry that in my heart. They sang my name from my first game, and they even sang it after I had left the club. When Ajax were drawn to play Manchester United in a Europa League game in February 2012, I had just come back from my eight-game ban at Liverpool. Around 4,000 Ajax supporters sang ‘There’s only one Luis Suárez’ throughout the game at Old Trafford. When people told me about it I was overwhelmed; it’s something I will never forget.
Another reason why the club will always be special to me is because of the way they treated my family. We loved living in Amsterdam. It was a big change from Groningen; it is a much more international city, and one that had a lot of tourists and much more going on. The club advised us that we should be careful when we were out and about – the sort of warning locals might give any young wide-eyed tourists in a big city – but we had a wonderful time. Sofi and I picked out a loft apartment in a converted warehouse on Amsterdam’s IJ lake waterfront and, as busy capital cities go, it was a relaxing place to live. Above all, that was because of the attitude of the people. For a player it’s perfect because you are at a top European club but away from the pitch there is maximum respect for your personal space. No one bothers you for pictures or autographs if they see that you’re with your family. It couldn’t have been better.
The Amsterdam Arena is probably the best stadium I have played in. It has all the benefits of a modern stadium, but because of the supporters you can feel the history of the club when you play there. It makes me very proud to think that if those supporters were asked today about the top players that have played for the club they would include my name. In fact, just having been part of Dutch football is incredibly special to me. If my Uruguayan roots taught me to never stop fighting on the pitch, then my Dutch education taught me to never stop thinking.
Crossing the Line is out now in hardback and ebook. Get your copy here.