Speaking to ‘The Players’ Tribune’, Manchester City and Brazil star Gabriel Jesus spoke about his childhood and the struggle to get off the streets of Sao Paulo with the help of football. His celebration is a rendition to everybody who helped him get to where he is now.
Gabriel Jesus went from pitches of mud and dirt to shining at the Etihad and getting ready for his second World Cup with Brazil this year. As he puts it: “Water can turn to wine. Don’t ever stop dreaming.”
“I remember when I was playing for Pequeninos, I’d see some of the kids after the match with their fathers, and I was alone. That was heavy for me. It marked me. But now, when someone asks about my father, I say that my mother is my father. She did everything for me and my brothers.” said the Brazilian.
“She was another hero without a cape. So when I score a goal now, even when she’s not in the stadium, I ‘pick up the phone’ and talk to her.”
His mother was a key figure in Jesus succeeding in football, as he recalls: “Football is just like anything in life. It’s not fair. So you still have to find a way, even when it’s not fair.”
He remembers playing for local club Pequeninos at the age of 13, with no prospect of making it to the elite within five years, which is what eventually happened: “The next years of my life were very difficult. In Brazil, if you have dreams of being a professional footballer, you’re usually in a big club’s youth academy by 12 or 13 years old.”
“But for some reason, things weren’t working out for me. Sao Paulo FC gave me a trial, and they liked me, but then they told me that they couldn’t offer me a bed at the academy. The club was too far away from my home, so if I took the bus there every day, I’d have to drop out of school, and my mother… Well, my mother was definitely not going to accept that. She was all about school.”
“I owe everything to my mom during this period. Because a lot of kids in Brazil, when they’re from humble means, they have to start working in order to help the family. They can’t do football and school and work. So the dream dies for them at that point.”
“But my mother, she believed in me. For whatever reason, she believed. She told me to keep going, no matter what I had to do.”
Jesus continued playing football and was soon playing alongside Neymar for Brazil and signing a mega-buck move to the Premier League. His mother never gave up on him, which is why he thanks her with every chance he gets.
“When we were kids, my mom would be calling me all the time to find out where I was, and if I didn’t pick up, she’d start calling all my friends,” Jesus added.
“When I pick up the phone, it is in honour of my mother and our struggle. But it is also in honour of my friends and family and Coach Mamede and everyone in Brazil who helped me get here.”
“Whenever I score for Manchester City, my mother calls me. As soon as the ball hits the back of the net, the phone rings,” he concluded. “It doesn’t matter if she’s back home in Brazil or if she’s in the stadium watching me. She calls me every time. So I run to the corner flag, and I put my hand to my ear, and I say, “Alo Mae!”.
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