Suarez Bids Gremio Emotional Farewell
|Luis Suarez of Gremio celebrates after scoring the first goal of his team during the match between Gremio and Vasco Da Gama as part of Brasileirao 2023 at Arena do Gremio on December 3, 2023 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.(Image-Getty)
Even the rain could not hide his tears.
The match was over by then. But Luis Suarez is active. He walked around the field for about 15 minutes, waving to the spectators, blowing his whistle. Behind his teammates were watching with devotion in their eyes. After a while, the wife and children ran into the field and hugged Suarez. And about 50,000 visitors in the gallery were shouting his name.
A video was shown on the giant screen in the field. Suarez joined Brazilian club Gremio 11 months ago. During this time, the video was made by compiling his shining moments. Passes, goal celebrations—all of which have made Suarez a Gremio 'icon' in a short period of time. Last Sunday, he scored a goal in his last match for the club and said goodbye to the Arena Gremio audience, "I will not forget this moment." The Uruguayan star's eyes were filled with emotion, "This is more than I expected."
Suarez's wave of pure passion will warm the hearts of everyone involved with Gremio. The club returned to Brazil's top league a year ago. Now South America's top club competition is savoring the final round of the Copa Libertadores. We have Suarez to thank for that. In addition to scoring 27 goals in all competitions for Gremio this year, he also created 17 goals. But the depth of the impression Suarez left at Gremio cannot be measured in statistics. Listen to Gremio reporter Leonardo Oliveira, reporter for Zero Hora, a local newspaper in Porto Alegre, "In some matches, he seemed like an alien player. As if someone from an alien planet is playing with people.
Gremio wanted to send a message by signing Suarez. The previous two years have been bad for one of the most historic clubs in Brazil. Wanted to turn around from there. It was expected that the arrival of a star like Suarez would increase the audience. That was evident when around 30,000 fans came to Gremio's stadium to welcome him. But with Suarez, not everyone got carried away with euphoria. Then at 36, his feet fell, he came to play the domestic football of his country, Uruguay; Many people thought that Gremio was more focused on enhancing their brand image without paying attention to the performance on the field! The famous Brazilian columnist Paulo Vinicius Coelho wrote at the time, "Great from a marketing point of view, but a questionable decision from a sporting point of view."
But Suarez didn't bring that fear to the field. Abhishek scored a hat-trick on debut and the rest of the squad lagged behind him in performance. Gremio won the Rio Grande do Sul state championship. The story of the beginning of the Campaneto Brasileiro (Brazil's premier competition) is similar. The Finnish, memorable against Red Bull Brazantino and Cruzeiro, also scored a solitary effort in the derby against Internazionale. There's more. That hat-trick in 19 minutes against Botafogo last November, which Gremio came from behind in an incredible 4-3 win.
"A timeless performance that deserves a place in league history," wrote Brazilian newspaper Globo Esporte's Douglas Cecconello. Gremio fans will tell their grandchildren the story of Suarez playing in the tricolor jersey.
"He's different," Gremio coach Renato Portaluppi enthused. It is a joy to watch him play.
It's hard to argue against such an assessment of Suarez. Compared to the pace and explosive performances he had at Liverpool and Barcelona, his pace at Gremio has slowed down. Not as devastating in the box as before. But there was still much to admire in his game. He did not lose the habit of smelling the goal. He has not lost the clever and intelligent mentality that is always needed for that! Finishing power is also adequate. There is also fighting spirit. With all this, Suarez is still a tough opponent. And if it comes to giving his all for the club, he has to give letter marks there too.
Many of South America's star footballers don't sing much about their clubs when they return to their continent after playing in Europe. How exceptional Suarez is, listen to Oliviera's words, 'Technically he is far ahead but never stops running for the team. He has squeezed his last sweat for the team.
Gremio will play their last match against Fluminense in the Brazilian Serie A on December 7. If Suarez plays the match, it will be his 54th appearance for the club this year. Never before has Suarez played so many matches in one season. After suffering from a knee injury for most of the year, he couldn't even train—it must have sounded even more amazing after hearing that!
It was reported last June that Suarez could retire with a knee injury. In a match against Curitiba, he could not bear the pain and asked the coach for a transfer. Gremio president Alberto Guerra said at the time, "The matter is serious. He has reached his limit.'
Suarez wants to retire, a claim denied by Gremio. The news of Suarez's retirement did not create much buzz then. Because, at that time, another rumor had spread around him. Suarez wants to leave Gremio early and join Inter Milan as a free agent!
Gremio kept quiet about it for a few weeks. The two sides then reached an agreement—Suarez would stay until December and Gremio would not execute the second year of his contract. Suarez then said, 'I won't be able to fulfill what Gremio expects of me next year. Because Brazilian football is competitive and has a lot of matches. I have agreed with the club. They understand and I'm grateful for that. Gremio fans were also hoping Suarez would stay. The fans cheered for him in almost every match. Not only fans, but also his teammates were hoping Suarez would stay.
The goodwill behind this hope is also understandable. Suarez has contributed directly (scoring) or indirectly (scoring) to 40 percent of Gremio's goals this year. Gremio also earns huge sums of money from ticket and jersey sales off the pitch. The club's membership has grown from 60,000 at the beginning of this year to over 1 lakh.
"I didn't think he would build a fanbase like this," explained Oliviera. According to the journalist, Suarez's off-field mingling with locals is the key to this fanbase, adding, "Some players don't get out that much. But Suarez picked up the kids from school, took his wife to the city center, went to the supermarket in his slippers. He's a star, but he's not wrapped up in its atmosphere.' Suarez was awarded a medal of honor by the local assembly last week. To contribute to the development of the city. And Suarez? Standing in front of Gremio supporters last Sunday, he reciprocated the love of the city's residents, saying, "It feels like my own home." I will always be a Gremio fan wherever I go.'
Suarez is likely to join Inter Miami next campaign. There are new thrills waiting for him. Will be joined by Barcelona teammate and friend Lionel Messi. Before that, Oliviera described the impression that Suarez is leaving on Gremio, 'I have been following Gremio for 40 years. They got some great players. Suarez arrived at the club not long ago. But I would put him very high on the list—next to Renato (Portaluppi) and Ronaldinho. One of the best players in the world came here - the fans will never forget it.'