It is all about having different sides to your personality, according to Leandro Otormin. “When I’m at home on my own, I can do what I want. If I’m at a friend’s house, I can’t quite be myself in the same way. I have to behave better,” the attacking midfielder, one of the standouts of the Uruguay team that crushed New Zealand on Thursday, told FIFA.com.
That is how the promising youngster from Nacional of Montevideo explained why his form used to dip when he put on the sky-blue shirt. “I felt a little more pressure with the national team, like I was always being watched, and had to prove myself,” he admitted.
But in the opening game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates 2013, the starlet showed that he felt thoroughly at home after all, scoring twice and helping create another two goals.
The New Zealand coaching staff must be wondering where Otormin appeared from. After all, he was not even called up for coach Fabian Coito’s final squad for April’s South American U-17 Championship. Hard to believe that six months later he was making life hell for the New Zealand full-backs at the Emirates Stadium in Ras Al-Khaimah.
“The truth is that at the time I wasn’t at my best. I wasn’t ready to play in an international competition. But since then I’ve improved my weak points a lot, and that’s how I earned my first-team spot today,” he said.
The wide player even started seeing a psychologist to try and find out why such someone so young should have two such distinct footballing personalities: the Otormin “at home” and the Otormin “away.”
“I started the treatment because I felt that I could have made it to the South American Championship, and I didn’t know why I hadn’t been able to,” he explained. “It helped me a lot because now I believe in myself off the pitch. I believe in my own strength.”
From the couch to the pitch
It looks like it worked, and now it is time for some footballing therapy. Against the Kiwis, Otormin mainly played out on the right, as part of a powerful forward line featuring Kevin Mendez on the left and Marcio Benitez and Franco Acosta in the centre. But the quartet continually switched positions, confusing the Kiwi defence, which had to deal with the Uruguay No17 popping up all over the place.
Otormin showed himself to be highly versatile, capable of playing anywhere in the attacking third and getting the better of defenders through sheer skill, both when winning possession and when moving forward with the ball glued to his feet. “The way I see it, I’m able to play more on the right and use my strongest foot, but I can also easily play on the left. I can even play as a No9,” he said, referring to the more central position that he plays for his club. “You just need to be fast, get the ball, and go for it.”
And go for it he did. “I realise now that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I just have to play the way I know best,” he said. Exactly like he does for Nacional, and now for Uruguay too.