World Soccer: What’s your first football memory?
Lionel Messi: My first memories are from when I was very little, maybe three or four years old playing in my neighbourhood at home. I can picture myself with the ball at my feet from a very young age.
Did you learn to avoid the hacking and the fouling way back then?
I always had the same style of play. I didn’t really worry about people kicking me.
Looking back on your first weeks and months at Barcelona, were they happy times or bad times?
Both. I was happy to be living in Barcelona and experiencing all those new things. On the other hand, it was hard to be so far away from people. I had to start again, new team-mates, new friends. I also couldn’t play at first because of injury and because there were problems with the paperwork. That start was hard.
Who were your idols?
I always admired [Pablo] Aimar; he came from River and I followed him a lot.
Did you have problems with people because you were small?
No, I never had any problems with my height. I was always the smallest kid, at school and in my teams.
You weren’t a regular starter until the age of 13 or 14 when Tito Vilanova, your current coach at Barcelona, took over the team. Did you ever think of giving up?
No, never. I always thought about carrying on training and working, chasing my dream. I was lucky that when Tito came I began to play more often and from then on my career changed in the youth system.
Is Tito the same now as he was then?
He’s the same person who coached us in the cadets team. I was little and I don’t remember that much from that time, but he’s the same and he treats us as he did then.
Did you play the same way you do now, as a false number nine?
No, the system was different. We played with one striker and I played just behind him, with two wingers out wide. I was a mediapunta. It’s not a case of the false nine starting with that team because we didn’t play that system.
Is your playing style a result of your education at Barcelona?
My style of play has always been the same. I never tried to develop a specific style. From very young I just played this way. What is certainly true is that I learnt a lot in the youth system. The way we worked here was different. There was a lot of contact with the ball and a lot of work on the tactical system. I came from Argentina where we didn’t do anything like that. Over there it was lots of running and not much more.
You’ve been reunited with Cesc Fabregas, who you played with at youth level. Do you have a special understanding?
We understand each other very well and we know each other well. It’s easy to play with Cesc because of the style he has. We try to look for each other on the pitch and in training.
When you played for Barcelona in the first team for the first time, in the pre-season Joan Gamper Trophy, Fabio Capello described you as “a little devil”…
It was incredible to hear that he had said that. He’s a coach who has won so much and it was very nice that he should say that about me.
When you were about to make your league debut there were problems over your passport…
That was a tough moment, but fortunately it was resolved quite quickly. I wanted to play, I had the chance to make the step up to the first team and they wouldn’t let me. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t play.
Why do you think Deco and Ronaldinho took you under their wing?
I don’t know. Right from the start I was lucky enough to have them by my side. I will be grateful to them for my whole life; them and [Thiago] Motta and Sylvinho.
What happened to that team? Why did it fall apart so quickly?
I don’t really know what happened. We lost a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United and we lost the league to Real Madrid on goal difference. I don’t really know what happened, but at least it served as a lesson to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Interview by Sid Lowe/ESM
Part two of our interview with Lionel Messi
How to Write a Compelling Profile of a Person
A profile is a type of feature story and usually focuses on a person. A profile is a somewhat specific term for a story about a person. It usually focuses on what's important or interesting about that person now. For example, the journalist Gay Talese did a famous profile of Frank Sinatra, called "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" and spoke to the singer's entourage since Sinatra would not grant an interview.
Although profiles are usually of people, like a celebrity profile, a journalist can also profile an entity, like a sports team or a company. Profiles are popular types of magazine stories but you will also see profiles in newspapers and other publications. The focus of profile features should be:
- on a news angle or an aspect of the person's personal or professional life
- explaining the reasons why the person is newsworthy, relevant and interesting
- based on an interview with the person (not always exclusively)
- include major elements of hard news stories, but also provide readers with details that capture the essence of the person being profiled.
Tips for Writing a Compelling Profile of a Person
Writing a compelling profile involves a few different components. First, the interview portion is often considered the most important aspect of pulling just the right story together. Second, care with putting pen to paper will help you bring the person to live in a way that is genuine, believable and interesting.
And third, crossing your T's and dotting your I's will help tell the story clearly and succinctly. To ensure the three components come together smoothly, here are 10 tips for writing better and more compelling profiles:
- Start off right. Identify yourself, know the rules of attribution, and strive to have sources speak on the record whenever possible.
- Come Prepared. You should always prepare for all interviews ahead of time and plan the list of questions you would like to ask. Some people like to talk and when the conversation starts off right, they may need a little prompting from you to tell their stories. Others may be harder to interview and so it is always a good idea to have a list of questions to carry you through the interview. Either situation asks that you plan ahead and prepare for your interviews well ahead of time.
- Ask open-ended questions and be a good listener. Begin with how or why and don't be afraid of asking follow-up questions such as "can you tell me a little more about..." and "what do you mean by..." Be sure to leave ample time for your interviewee to speak and don't interrupt when he or she is speaking. Listen closely, take notes or record the interview (and be sure tell them before hand that you are recording).
- Create an outline. Once you're ready to write, review your notes and mark down the most interesting points and quotes you would like to use to shape your story about this person. Consider what was most surprising and build your story's structure around the peaks and most compelling parts of the conversation.
- Spend extra time at the beginning of your story. Readers will decide whether to keep reading based on your lede and how much you have piqued their interest.
- Write with verbs versus adjectives. Don't describe someone as bitter or an office as sterile, instead describe the details you observed and let the reader envision that person's actions or the characteristics of that office themselves.
- Be strategic with quotations. It can be hard to capture a mood with direct quotes only, so use your own prose and then interject relevant quotes to enhance your point. Be sure to always provide attribution for the quotes that you do use as the reader shouldn't have to ever wonder who is talking.
- Watch for gaps. Are there gaping holes in your story or questions that you have not answered? Ask another wordsmith to read your story and tell you if they are left with more questions than answers at the end of reading your piece.
- Don't end with a conclusion. Instead, consider featuring a particularly resonant quote for the last sentence. Let the person you are profiling be the last voice your readers hear.
- Edit, check for accuracy and proofread. Once you have finished writing, go back through your work with a fine tooth comb for spelling or grammatical mistakes. Check that you have spelled names correctly, gotten titles right. Also, check and recheck your facts — if you can't verify something, it's probably best to leave it out.