[PORTRAIT] His father played for Uruguay at the 1974 World Cup and his grandfather coached the Celeste’s 1962 World Cup team, yet Diego Forlan also excelled on the tennis court. Good thing for Uruguay he stayed with the family sport.
Last February, Forlan said Uruguay would be the surprise team of the 2010 World Cup. The 31-year-old then helped make it happen, scoring three goals in the Celeste’s run to the semifinals.
While approaching his teens, Forlan was a promising tennis player when he finally decided to dedicate himself to soccer.
When his older sister, Alejandra, suffered injuries in a car accident that left her paralyzed at age 17, the 13-year-old Diego promised her he would become a soccer star.
“I told her while she was in her hospital bed that I would become a star so that I could ensure that she still has a good life,” Diego said.
He left Uruguay at age 17 for Argentina’s Independiente and at age 19 debuted for the team coached by Cesar Luis Menotti, who had guided Argentina to the 1978 World Cup title. Forlan's 40 goals in 91 games for Independiente caught the attention of Manchester United, which bought him for more than $10 million in 2002 at age 23.
Forlan won three English Premier League titles with Manchester United, but after scoring only 17 goals in 98 appearances, Forlan moved to Spain, where he excelled.
With Villarreal he won the La Liga scoring title, the Pichichi, and the European Golden Shoe as top scorer. He repeated the double feat with his current club, Atletico Madrid.
On the eve of this World Cup, Forlan helped Atletico Madrid win the Europa League, scoring both goals against Fulham in the 2-1 final triumph.
Forlan’s father, Pablo, was on Uruguay’s 1966 World Cup squad and played in the 1974 World Cup. His maternal grandfather, Juan Carlos Corazzo, starred for Independiente in the 1930s and had two stints as Uruguay coach, in 1959-61 and 1962-64.
After becoming the star he promised he would be, Diego Forlan supported his sister’s foundation that advocates for road safety in Uruguay. And in 2005 he became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Alejandra also advocates for the rights of the disabled through UNICEF.
Nicknamed “Cachavacha” after an Argentine cartoon witch he is said to resemble, Forlan will try to conjure some more magic when Uruguay faces the Netherlands in Tuesday’s semifinal.