Most football fans outside Uruguay associate the name Forlan with Diego, the blond-maned striker charged with the task of firing the Charrúa challenge at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Back home, however, that surname is also synonymous with the Atletico Madrid man's father Pablo, who represented his country at two world finals: England 1966 and Germany 1974.
During a club career spanning nearly 20 years, Forlan Senior distinguished himself as a right-back for Uruguayan big guns Penarol, where he won six league titles as well as a Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup double in 1966. As a mark of his ability he then helped Sao Paulo to three state championships in the 1970s. In recent years he has had the immense satisfaction of watching his son make a name for himself in the global game, making him more than well qualified to give FIFA.com his exclusive thoughts on Uruguay's talismanic centre-forward.
A precocious talent
Speaking in Cape Town ahead of Uruguay's opening game against France on Friday, Pablo recalls his son's early passion for sport. "At the age of two he used to walk around with a ball at his feet and table tennis bat in his hand. As he grew up you could see that he had a gift for both football and tennis, and the time came when he had to choose between the two. With the help of a friend we managed to persuade him to become a footballer, although we never put any pressure on him. He still thanks me for it today."
When Diego turned 17, Pablo had to do what all parents dread and let his son fly the nest. His future lay across the River Plate, where he signed for Argentinian outfit Independiente, making his first division debut shortly afterwards. So what advice did his father give him before he went on his way? "I told him to live an ordered life off the pitch," comes the reply. "There are one or two players who don't and still come through, but they don't tend to stick around and make a success of things.
“The other thing I told him was to always stay on after training and practise his ball work," he continues. "He was born with great technique but you need to polish it, and that involves hours of dedication in front of a wall. That dedication paid off. When he went to Manchester, [Sir Alex] Ferguson picked him up at the airport, gave him a tour of the city and then took him to Old Trafford. Then, right at the end of the day he asked him, 'There’s only one thing I still don't know about you, are you left or right-footed?'."
In his father’s view, Diego's ability to strike the ball with either foot is one of his two greatest assets. "The other is the combination of his speed and explosiveness," he adds. In the early part of his career that speed sometimes worked against him, as his father explains: "He'd get in front of goal so quickly that he'd arrive before the ball, which meant he had to double back and steady himself before shooting. So I told him to slow down a little."
Though a proud father, Pablo is also a dispassionate critic and watches his son's every performance with a keen eye. "I have to control my emotions with him. I'm an ex-player, coach and a man who loves his children, and because of that I always tell the truth. At the end of every game Diego calls me and the first thing I do is tell him about his mistakes and then about the good things he's done. The mistakes come first, though. That said, we have a great relationship and he takes it really well."
Before signing off, Forlan Senior expresses his hope that Diego can end South Africa 2010 as the tournament's top scorer. To achieve that goal, however, the free-scoring front man will need all the support he can get from his team. "Uruguay keep control of the ball a lot more now and they create more chances," says the Celeste old boy. "That’s important for Diego. If he's on top form the team can go far. And I really hope they do."