Before they became our ultimate role models, they were all small children with big dreams that perhaps seemed foolish at the time. Now, these men are some of the biggest names in the sports world, and superstar icons to young people all over the globe. Let’s reminisce and look back at these footballers’ childhoods and their path to becoming the legends they are today.
Lionel Andrés Messi, the best football player in the world who won five Golden Balls and three European Golden Shoes, has had quite a tough childhood. At the age of 11, he was diagnosed with a Growth Hormone Deficiency. This is a condition that led him to grow at a much slower rate than normal. Messi’s dad could not afford the treatment he needed, but FC Barcelona could, and that’s how they got the already talented youngster on the team. The Barcelona “Futbol Club” would cover the expensive cost of the treatment under the condition that Messi moved to Barcelona. At only 13, Messi moved to Barcelona where he had to train longer and harder than everyone else to make up for his smaller size. For three years, he had to stick needles in his legs every night as part of the treatment. Although the Argentinean legend was always the smallest on the team, he was also always the best.
The Portuguese scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, was born into a poor family with a chef father and a gardener mother. He started playing football at a very young age and was nicknamed the “cry-baby.” He would cry when he would pass to his friends and they don’t score. Ronaldo was so attached to football that he would sleep with a ball next to him instead of a cuddly teddy bear or a Spiderman mini-figure. After being signed to the Lisbon Club at 12 years of age, Ronaldo had to move to the city centre and leave his family behind. He cried every day because of how much he missed them and how homesick he felt. Till this day, we still see the beloved “cry-baby” express himself, but more often with tears of happiness from his ground-breaking goals.
Neymar, said to be Messi’s successor, has had quite a rough childhood. The young player was born to an extremely poor family in Mogi Das Cruzes, a very poor suburb of Sao Paulo, Brazil. At some point, Neymar and his family had to move to their grandparents’ house because they couldn’t afford their own. Neymar’s father used to be a professional football player, and was the reason Neymar was pushed into the football world. Currently Neymar’s manager, he went to great lengths including holding three jobs at one time, to support his son’s football career. . Although he wasn’t able to watch his son play when he was younger, he now watches him score his way as one of the best player worldwide.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian masterpiece, was named the fourth best footballer in the world by The Guardian in 2017. He had an independent childhood, in which he practically moved out at the age of 14. He joined his hometown Genk’s football academy and used the little money he earned from this club to support his dreams and aspirations. He put his heart and soul into football and would only manage to visit his parents on weekends. De Bruyne definitely is a strong role model to youngsters pursuing their dreams, no matter the circumstances they may find themselves in.
The English footballer Harry Kane, better known as HurriKane, has had quite a fun and versatile childhood with lots of family and football. His own role model happens to be his older brother (not a famous football legend) as they were extremely close and attached. Kane had also visited Beckham’s Football Academy when he was younger and he really looked up to Beckham’s technique. He also felt close to Beckham because they were both English and had even attended the same school in the north of London. Young fans relish the stories of Kane’s childhood, and find inspiration in having him part of their own.
Kylian Mbappé is the youngest on our list. The Cameroonian-Algerian-French footballer is only nineteen years old and seems to have had a modern childhood. Born into a rich household with sports genes all over the family, he was bound to be great in the sports area. However, one can say that he barely really had a childhood. Mbappé always explains that he grew up too fast, so he was always going through mental difficulties. When he was 13, he played with taller 16-year-olds and stopped being able to visit his friends in his hometown on weekends as he became too famous. He signed his contract at sixteen, which means he will have few silly adolescent stories to tell his children. On the other hand, we are sure he will have many stories to tell his children about his legendary career.
The one and only Egyptian hero, Mohamed Salah, has had a typical Egyptian childhood. Born to middle-class parents, Salah’s first football encounter was on the dirty asphalt streets with the fellow kids. The football player, nicknamed the “Egyptian Messi,” was not very good when it came to academics, but had a tremendous passion for football, even though it angered his parents. He was constantly playing and couldn’t balance school with his dream. While football started out for fun with him, as he grew into his teenage years Salah started to consider it as a serious career. Years later, at least a 100 million Egyptians and even more fans around the world, are extremely thankful for his decision to pursue his passion.