There was a time when Luis Suarez was headed in the wrong direction, and it was the perfect time to meet his future wife, Sofia Balbi. His father had left, and his family was going through financial difficulties. Suarez was one of seven children, and the family got by on limited financial means. He spoke with Liverpool Echo about the financial challenges his family had to overcome.
“We were from the lower class,” Suarez explained to Liverpool Echo. “I never had the possibility to choose my own running shoes, for example, because of how big my family was. My parents did everything they could but they couldn’t buy us the things that we wanted, only what they could provide. But I was forever grateful for what they provided.”
Suarez was collecting garbage when he first met Balbi, and had to pick up loose change to afford to take her on dates. Life is much different now that Suarez is one of the best soccer players in the world. It may not have happened if he did not meet Balbi, who helped him gain confidence in himself. The couple now has two children, Delfina (7) and Benjamin Suarez (4).
Learn more about Suarez’s wife and family.
1. Suarez Was a Street Sweeper When He Met Balbi
Suarez comes from humble beginnings, and times were tough when he first met Balbi. According to The Mirror, Suarez was working as a street sweeper when the couple met. Wilson Pirez, a Uruguay scout who first discovered Suarez, described the early years of their relationship.
“They didn’t pay him much when he was young so he used to pick up coins on the street and then take it back to his girlfriend so they could buy nice things to eat,” Perez explained to The Daily Mail.
Times have changed as Suarez made almost $20 million this year from playing soccer, and has an estimated net worth of $51 million.
2. Suarez’s Wife Encouraged Him to Change His Ways on the Field
Suarez is known for his controversial antics on the field, but his wife has tried to get him to turn over a new leaf. Suarez admits it helps to have his wife watching matches, and explaining to him how his conduct on the field impacts people’s beliefs about him as a person.
“My wife has made observations like, ‘You were arguing with the referee and the defenders too much; you didn’t really seem up for it; you might as well have not been on the pitch,” Suarez explained to Liverpool Magazine (via The Mirror). “I go away, think about it and realize she was right. She said people must go away and think that is what I am like off the pitch, even though I’m usually relaxed and easy-going. Having a wife that closely watches the game is good. She knows me better than anyone else and I want her observations to help me play better and be a happier person.”
After his infamous bite in the 2014 World Cup was watched all over the world, Suarez has an opportunity to show he is a changed man in the 2018 World Cup.
3. Suarez Initially Lied to His Daughter About Biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup
Despite video evidence showing otherwise, Suarez initially denied biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. When his kids asked him about the incident, Suarez even denied the event to them as well. Suarez received a four month suspension which had an impact on his family. Suarez spoke with Sport about the low point of his career, and how he disappointed his daughter.
I suffered. I’m a human being that suffers and has feelings. My daughter was aware of what her dad was going through…It hurt a lot. [My kids] kept asking me why I wasn’t playing. To be honest, it really hurt. Above all because I am not like that, I am a softy and my family know that. My kids know that their dad is a human being and he makes mistakes and they know anyone can make mistakes.
I hurt Delfina because I lied to her. She asked me [about biting] and I denied it. I had trouble believing it, let alone saying it. I couldn’t understand it. I hurt her because she knew I wasn’t like that. [Media] even asked her how I was at home.
4. Suarez Met Balbi When He Was 15 & She Helped Him Turn His Life Around
According to Liverpool Echo, Suarez was just 15 years old when he met Balbi. Suarez was going through a difficult time, and making bad choices as he dealt with his family difficulties. Suarez’s father left the family when he was 12, making it even more difficult financially for his brothers and sisters.
“I wasn’t on the path I wanted to be on,” Suarez explained to Liverpool Echo. “I was going out at night, I didn’t enjoy studying and I wasn’t dedicating myself to football. There were some people around me who were a bad influence…She gave me a lot of confidence and helped me believe in myself.”
Through his relationship with Balbi, soccer became a top priority, and he began working more intently on perfecting his craft.
“At 15, I found a girlfriend that sorted my head out,” Suarez noted per SDE. “It helped me realize how [important] soccer was for me.”
5. Friends & Coaches Refer to Suarez’s Wife as His Pillar
From the perspective of those close to Suarez, it is clear that he would not have had the same success if he had not met Balbi. Not only did their relationship motivate him to help better his family’s financial situation, it kept him from following a path full of bad decisions. Suarez’s former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers explained to SDE how Balbi has impacted Suarez’s life.
“She’s a great woman and offers him great stability in his life,” Rodgers told SDE. “She tells him straight and direct. She loves Liverpool [where Suarez was playing at the time], she loves the city, she loves the camaraderie with the other players’ wives. So she’s a real pillar in his life. They’ve been together for a long time. Luis traveled across the world to find her again. It’s an incredible story.”