MADISON, Wis. — It has become a commonplace story in the football realm today: a young boy from a poor neighborhood who had always dreamed of becoming a football star is now the national team’s MVP. Since football is idolized by both adults and children alike in most countries of the world, many young boys are raised to aim high and work hard toward becoming a professional futbol player.
Becoming a player on the men’s national team not only promises fame and name recognition, but million-dollar salaries: something that widens the eyes of these children and their parents alike. And the most exciting part? These young boys have many examples to look up to: men who came from similar situations of poverty and hardship as them.
Here are five 2014 World Cup stars who overcame poverty and are providing hope to the millions of young boys playing football in the dirt with a doll’s head.
Emilio Izaguirre (Honduras)
Izaguirre grew up in Tegucigalpa, Hondurus, and from a young age was in the constant intersection of two local gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio, due to poverty. He attributes his escape from the gang life to futbol because he “played with people from both gangs,” so they both grew to trust him. He was recruited onto a team in the national federation from a young age. However, unlike many players with a rags-to-riches story, Izaguirre still keeps a low profile and will not talk about where his family lives so as to protect them from the gangs he used to be involved with.
Photo: The Scottish Sun
Daniel Alves (Brazil)
Alves grew up in Juazeiro, one of the parched back lands in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Alves used to get up at the crack of dawn, around 5 a.m., to pick melons for his father, a farmer. He recalls helping his family make ends meet in a variety of ways, from being a waiter and a trader, to sleeping on the cement beds to cut costs.
Photo: Hargeisa Sport
Gervinho (Cote d’Ivorie)
Gervais Yao Kouassi, known as Gervinho, comes from a rough neighborhood of Abobo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. He grew up in a large family and regularly discusses how “frankly life was not easy” for them growing up. He has since “teamed up with UNAIDS to promote the Protect the Goal campaign” and was recently appointed as a UNAIDS ambassador to “support the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”
Source: The Hindu,UNAIDS
Photo: Soccer Lens
Alexis Sánchez (Chile)
As a child growing up in Tocopilla, Chile, Sanchez washed cars and pushed carts for money. He remembers how it was “not easy to get money to live in Tocopilla” and how, for a large portion of his childhood, he didn’t have shoes because his mother couldn’t afford them. He says that he wasn’t a great student, and often skipped school in order to play football. He would often reassure his mother and friends that one day, he would be a great football player and have enough money to give to her and his friends. He now plays for Futbol Club Barcelona, though he is playing for Chile in the 2014 World Cup.
Source: Total Barca
Photo: Sky Sports
Compared to some of the other players listed above, Ronaldo didn’t grow up in “extreme poverty,” but he still came from relatively humble beginnings. He was raised in a poor family, with three other siblings, in the small Portuguese archipelago of Madeira. He didn’t enjoy school and had a particularly stressful home life, in which his mother was a cook, struggling to make enough money for food, and his father struggled with alcoholism. He is now the #2 highest paid athlete in the world, according to Forbes, and was named FIFA’s World Player of the Year.
Sources: Forbes, Portugal Daily View ,Goal ,Hindustan Times
Photo: Fun Cheap SF