The word “poverty” is one-word many humans do not want to be associated with. Like in Africa or other parts of the world, people who experience tremendous poverty are most times regarded as insignificant.
Poverty is one bad thing so much so that the good books frown at it. The Bible said in the book of Proverbs that “the destruction of the poor is their poverty” and goes further to say that “a poor fellow is hated because of his poverty“.
All across the world, around 600 million people live in abject poverty and when parents become incapacitated to provide the basic amenities for their children, such family is bound to witness the sorry and gorry aspect of life.
But thankfully, the beautiful game of football is known to be one of the most-watched game, the game itself is an expression of collective team culture and individuality. Poverty is undoubtedly tragic in nature but football has been a tool to curb much-underprivileged ones to improve their financial circumstances.
Let’s try and have a rumination about what would’ve happened to the following people if they hadn’t become footballers through their commitment and hard work and the never say die spirit they adopted to ensure they become great.
Franck Ribery – France / Florentina
The French international is definitely one of the finest footballers in the world. Born in the northern region of France, the 37-year old was from a poor background.
At the age of 2, a fatal car accident almost killed Ribery which as a result of the reason he had many scars on his face. He vowed never to have a plastic surgery right after the ugly incident that nearly sent him to an early grave.
Having scars did not deter him from chasing his dreams even as the son of a poor father. At a tender age, he worked as a laborer at a construction company to help his father make ends meet.
Fast forward to now, the former Bayern Munich winger has bagged the European Player of the year award and narrowly missed being crowned as a Ballon D’or winner.
Yaya Toure – Ivory Coast / Qingdao Huanghai
Yaya came from a family of seven and he’s a younger brother to Arsenal legend, Kolo Toure. Yaya’s struggle was the normal kind of struggle every African child will go through while growing up.
Having spent years kicking football around with barefoot in the streets of Cote D’Ivoire, the former Manchester City star got his first pair of the boot at the age of 10.
Yaya told The Guardian in an interview in 2011 “boots were very expensive, and when there are seven children in your family and you say you want to buy a pair of boots, your father wants to kill you”
He clearly latched on the opportunity he got when the time came for him at ASEC Mimosas as a youth Player – he used the club as a jumping-off place to launch into Europe with Belgian outfit from where he has gone on to ply his trade in Ukraine, Greece, France, Spain, and England.
Alexis Sanchez- Chile / Inter Milan (Loan)
Alejandro Alexis Sanchez was born in Tocopilla (Chile) on December 19, 1988, he plays for Cobreloa in his youth days where he also played alongside nationals teammates like Charles Aranguis and Eduardo Vargas, he was a boy determined to succeed in order to help improve his mother’s life, Alexis mother clean for schools just to make ends meet for the family as his father was out of the picture. “When she was cleaning in the school I hid because I didn’t like to see her there,” Alexis has said.
The Ex-Barcelona star works in a local mine and also washed cars to help make extra income for his family while playing as a professional footballer. He made his international debut against New Zealand on April 27, 2006, and making almost 100 caps for the Chilean national side.
Had he not made a mark as a successful footballer Alexis Sanchez would likely have ended been a full-time miner.
Angel Di Maria – Argentina/ PSG
Many who see this Argentine doing wonders for PSG would think he had it all rosy as a young boy growing up in Argentina but the truth is that life before football was not easy for him. He grew up in a small Argentine town and his family had very little.
His parents worked at a coal yard where he and his sister also assisted their parents in working at the horrible place – just as the popular verse coined from the Bible, and given more emphatic meaning in Nigeria “person wey nor work, no go chop“.
Also, the former Real Madrid and Manchester United Player shared a room with his sister in a house that was falling apart. His parents’ job as was at the coal yard for sixteen years before Di Maria signed for Benfica and demanded that he wants to quit the job.
Di maria growing up in poverty has always given him the right sense of responsibilities, perspective other cash-spoiled footballers of today don’t have, living his dream and asked his father to stop working and bought a house for both his parents and sisters.
Zlatan Ibrahimović – Sweeden/ AC Milan
As a young man growing up, the Swede was in a tough neighborhood of Malmo in Sweden where he learned how to pick locks and steal bikes to training to develop his football skills alongside his accomplices in his streets.
The lanky player had the past that explains his deep mentality of “me against the world” things became difficult as his parent’s divorce just when he was 2-years old, he began playing at the age of 6 for FC Malmo and was a regular for the hometown club. Ibrahimovic almost quit his football career at the age of 15 due to hardship, working at the docks in Malmo, but was convinced by his manager to never give up and continue playing.
Zlatan suffered from poverty and prejudice and not until he was 18 did he truly see his own potential as a footballer – and as they say, the rest is history.
Neymar – Brazil / PSG
Neymar is another player that was involved in a car accident as a kid. Just after four months of living, his parents believed they already lost their child after the car accident left him bloodied.
Fortunately for the Brazilian, he survived the accident but grew up in a cramped room in his grandfather’s house, shared with his sister and parents.
At 13, he already attracted the attention of Real Madrid at Santos but ironically went back to Santos only to return back to Spain in 2013 to become a Barcelona player.
Sadio Mane -Senegal / Liverpool
The journey of this young man to stardom is unique. Growing up in Sedhiou, a village in Western Senegal where there was not a single hospital. This made most of the inhabitants of the city settle for agriculture jobs but Mane had a plan B.
Contrary to the will of his parents, he played football endlessly on dusty streets, playing whenever there was a game. At 15, against the will of his parents, he traveled to Senegal’s capital Dakar for a trial.
The trial which is parents never wanted to support brought about transformation for Sadio and his family. His talent took him to France where he caught the eye of Southampton and later made way into the Liverpool team to become an integral part of the team.
He’s currently giving back to his community; he went back home last year to monitor the progress of a school he’s building and gave out kits to the less privileged. Also, he had sent to Senegal some money to take care of the victims of Coronavirus pandemic.
Luka Modric – Croatia/ Real Madrid
Luka was at the age of 5 when the independence war broke out in Croatia in 1991. And just a couple of months thereafter, his grandfather was brutally murdered as part of the conflict.
The unfortunate traumatizing incident made the Real Madrid playmaker live in an impromptu refugee camp in his village. Amidst the unrest in the county at that time, he was kicking a football around barefooted – trying to do what he loves doing the most.
After the war ended, the young Modric had grown in ranks at his club NK Zadar and from there attracted the Dinamo Zagreb. As this stands, Luka is Croatia’s greatest footballer.
Steven Pienaar- South Africa/ Retired
Experiencing childhood in a politically-sanctioned racial segregation (Apartheid) era, The Southern nation was a hazardous environment for Pienaar while growing up, describing local Westbury as a cauldron of brutality and difficulty.
Pienaar recalled being prohibited by his mom from sitting on the lounge chair to sit in front of the TV, as she dreaded a stray bullet would come flying through the window – so he was limited to sitting on the floor.
The ex-Everton man has likewise reviewed an awful series of racism he faced in view of the shade of his skin – and the delight he felt when the riot came to an end in 1994.
While Pienaar had the option to get away from the danger of Westbury by choosing football, a lot of people were not – not long after Ajax secure his, a close friend of his was sadly lost to the pandemonium of Westbury.
Dani Alves- Brazil / Sao Paulo
Alves was born in Juazeiro a city in the Brazilian state of Bahia on May 5, 1983, the former Barcelona star started playing football as a kid, no thanks to his father’s passion for the game and starting a club where Alves got his play in organized football. He started at the age of 10 as a winger but his inability to score enough goals as a winger made his father re-positioned him to a more suitable right back, a position he plays up to this day.
Destiny was written on the walls of his father’s home as it was learned that Alves would go from wall to wall in the house practicing on his signature, and bracing himself up for the day’s thousands of football admirers would come looking for his autograph.
He worked as a farmer assisting his father in picking melons in the fields of Bahia. His once distant dream of signing an autograph is now a clear reality over the years. as the Brazilian right-back is now a prominent figure in football.
Cristiano Ronaldo- Portugal /Juventus
Ronaldo was born in Santo Antonio, on February 5, 1985, he was the youngest child of Maria Dolores, a local cook and his father Jose Aveiro a municipal gardener.
The name Ronaldo was chosen after former U.S president Ronald Reagan who was his father’s favorite actor. Ronaldo played with Andorinha before playing for a local club Nacional, at the age of 12 he had a three-day trial with Portuguese side Sporting CP and was signed for a fee around £1,500.
The Five-times World footballer of the year shared stories of his upbringing devoid playing toys and all, having to share a room with three of his siblings and agreeing with his mother to stop his education in order to help him focus on his football career, he was also expelled from school for throwing a chair at his teacher, who he said had ” disrespect him”
Ronaldo came into limelight in 2013 after signing for Manchester United, a place was his dream was projected to the world, and ever since then, Ronaldo has been one of the best footballers in the world.
7 Of The Most Loyal Football Players
When it comes to loyalty and commitment in the beautiful game, there are few football players who are able to pledge their allegiance and refused to be swayed by big offers. For every Ashley Cole, there’s also a Totti.
There are players who when they reach their potentials, will get easily swayed by money and the probable fame that will follow their transition to other clubs. While other players would simply remain at their current club because of the love they have for the club.
The first set of players who leave the club when bigger clubs come calling are always remembered for their exploits while at the club. But, the second type of football player who ignores the temptations of leaving their ‘most loved’ football club sides is regarded as heroes.
Meanwhile, there are some known players who have showcased utmost loyalty for their respective clubs. For instance, Francesco Totti waved off Real Madrid’s offer in 2006, stating AS Roma as his family and he’s never seen a situation where a child would leave his poor parents to go live with rich strangers.
But what about other unpopular loyal players like Francesco Totti, Stephen Gerrard or even Mark Noble?.
Here’s a list of 7 most loyal football players
- David Zibung (Goalkeeper) – FC Luzern (18 Years +)
The life of this Swiss goalkeeper has been all about his boyhood club, FC Luzern. The +37-year old was born in Hergiswil which is in the Nidwalden region in Switzerland.
He joined the youth team of FC Luzern in 1999 and was there till 2003. Zibung grew in leaps and bounds with the Luzern main team, ever since he broke into the first team, he’s never for once considered leaving the club.
Technically, Zibung would’ve spent eighteen years at Luzern by July 2021. But he’s definitely spent more than eighteen years given that he’s been at the club’s feeder team before 2003.
Zibung remains one of the oldest and longest-serving loyal goalkeepers of the Swiss League.
- Hidekazu Otani (Midfielder) – Kashiwa Reysol (18 Years)
Otani is a midfielder of note, who joined his one and only club in 2000 as a teenager. Now 36 years-old, Okami has been deployed in many parts of the midfield but his natural position is the defensive midfield where he plays comfortably well.
The Japanese veteran midfielder has on numerous occasions been offered to leave his club but his love for the Sun King club has held him back so much so that he’s willing to retire at the club when the time comes.
While some quarters may believe that Hidekazu Okani had been at Kashiwa for eighteen years, the fans of the club see him as an integral part of the club’s history given that he’s won laurels with the club severally.
- Igor Akinfeev (Goalkeeper) – CSKA Moscow (18 Years)
Akinfeev is probably the most popular player we’re x-raying in this Exposé. Akinfeev, Russian, is the Russian National Team goalkeeper and captain, as well as his club side, CSKA Moscow.
History has it that the 34-year old shot-stopper has been at CSKA Moscow since the age of four. His father sent him to the Sports School of CSKA where he began his goalkeeping career and won the Russian Junior Championship in 2002 with the CSKA Moscow team.
Akinfeev would make his debut for CSKA Moscow at sixteen, precisely 2001 where he saved a penalty and also had a clean sheet. He has played over five hundred matches for CSKA Moscow, winning six Russian Cup titles, six Russian Premier League titles as well as the 2005 UEFA Cup with the club.
His incredible rise to stardom is down to his personality and ingenuity as a goalkeeper. He’s arguably the best goalkeeper the Russian nation has ever produced and has been on several international tournaments for the country since he joined the national team.
It may sound bizarre but Akinfeev has spent thirty years at the Red-blues. That is a huge commitment mixed with loyalty.
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- Ismed Sofyan (Defender) – Persita Jakarta (18 Years)
Talking about the most loyal player, Sofyan’s loyalty isn’t about his club alone, it’s for his country and his country’s elite league, The Indonesian Super League – Not that he’s an amateur.
Yes, he may have played for a couple of club sides in the Indonesian league, but his love and unwavering support for his country is immeasurable.
Sofyan currently plays for Persita Jakarta, a club he joined in 2002 that has made him become the longest-serving player in the club until now. The 41year-old right full-back is a free-kick specialist. He was only privileged to play for the Indonesian National Team for just 53 times.
- Dean Lewington (Defender) – Milton Keynes Dons FC (18 Years)
As of July 2020, Lewinton is the longest-serving player for a single club in English League having spent sixteen years with The Dons.
The English left-back joined MK Dons after a successful spell with Wimbledon in 2004. Lewington, 32, has made over seven hundred appearances with more than 250 different team-mates.
He’s witnessed two promotions and relegations as the club’s captain for the years he’s been at MK Dons and he’s grateful for the sort of longevity he’s had.
He told daily mail in 2016 ‘It’s not like the Premier League where you get five-year deals. It is one or two years. When we won promotion to the Championship in 2015, I was out of contract on the final day as we were celebrating.’
- Koji Homa (Goalkeeper) – Mito HollyHock (21 Years)
Undoubtedly a popular figure in the Japanese league, the 43-year-old goalkeeper currently plays for the above-named club in the second tier of the Japanese League, J2.
After graduating from high school, he joined the J1 League side Urawa Reds in 1996 but couldn’t play more often before crossing to Mito HollyHock in 1999 and never looked back.
He’s helped Mito HollyHock achieve some amazing feats since he joined in 1999 with the biggest of them being the promotion of the club to J2 in 2000.
In his twenty-one-year sojourn with the club, Koji Homma holds the record for the player with the highest number of matches played in J2.
- Lee Casciaro (Forward) – Lincoln Red Imps (22 Years)
The 38-year-old Gibraltar striker scored the only goal of the game when his Gibraltarian minnows club (Lincoln Red Imps) shocked Celtic and to a larger extent, the rest of Europe in their Champions League qualifier at the Victoria Stadium in 2016,
Cascario, 39, has been at the club since he was eight years old and has spent twenty-three years as a first-team member.
It should be agreed that Lincoln Red Imps was made for Cascario, given that two of his younger brothers have played for the club as well.
With three international goals, Lee Henry Cascario is currently Gibraltar’s all-time goalscorer since the 33,684 populated nation joined UEFA.
- Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao): 11 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Tarantini (Rio Ave): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Stefan Radu (Lazio): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Vincent Manceau (Angers SCO): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Anthony Lopes (Lyon): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Koke (Atletico Madrid): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Roberto Torres (Osasuna): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Gerard Pique (Barcelona): 12 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow): 12 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Mario Gaspar Perez (Villarreal): 12 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Guilherme (Lokomotiv Moscow): 13 years, 1 month, 3 days
- Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur): 13 years, 1 month, 10 days
- Volodymyr Chesnakov (Vorskla Poltava): 13 years, 2 months, 3 days
- Mahmut Tekdemir (Istanbul Basaksehir): 13 years, 2 months, 3 days
- Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund): 13 years, 2 months, 3 days
- Sergio Busquets (Barcelona): 13 years, 2 months, 3 days
- Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk): 13 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Anton Shunin (Dynamo Moscow): 13 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Marcelo (Real Madrid): 13 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Sammy Bossut (Zulte Waregem): 14 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid): 15 years, 4 days
- Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus): 15 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Francesco Magnanelli (Sassuolo): 15 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Jessy Moulin (Saint-Etienne): 15 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Oier (Osasuna): 15 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Sergio Alvarez (Celta de Vigo): 16 years, 2 months, 4 days
- Mark Noble (West Ham United): 16 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Lionel Messi: (Barcelona): 16 years, 8 months, 3 days
- Denis Sinyayev(FC Avangard Kursk)18 years
- Ismaeil Matar (Al-Wahda): 19 years
- Petr Literak(Frýdek-Místek): 22 years
Erling Haaland: The Story Behind His Striking Rise
Erling Haaland was always going to become the ultimate striker and probably the best number 9 on the planet. Also, there’s every possibility that one day, he may become a Ballon D’or winner. But, there’s still one mystery, how did he become the cyborg that he is today?
Haaland continues to be a goal machine, becoming the quickest player in history to reach 20 Champions League goals. His goal from the spot in the UCL round-16 second leg tie against Sevilla was his 20th goal in just 14 appearances in the competition, which broke Harry Kane’s previous record of 24 games.
“Of course he’s fast, powerful, good around the goal and he’s got real soccer sense. But it’s more of his energy, it’s his infectious personality that I think is like a magnet; it draws people to him, it makes people want to be around him.” Those are the words of Red Bull Salzburg manager, Jesse Marsch.
Grab a handful of popcorn and sit back as we unfold the story behind the rise of this Norwegian beast, goal machine, and keeper’s nightmare, Erling Braut Haaland.
Haaland’s Salzburg Breakthrough
As at when Jesse Marsch was appointed as Salzburg manager, Haaland had been at the club for about six months and had only played one game. And then he went to the U-20 World Cup where he scored nine goals in one game.
From his Salzburg debut, Haaland, who had already impressed at the Norwegian league with Bryne and Molde left observers with no doubt about the quality he possesses.
He would become one of the best strikers on the planet because the talent in him was very obvious. In a chat with oh-my-goal, Jesse Marsch revealed that Haaland’s personality was the first thing he fell in love with about Haaland.
“The first couple of days I worked with him, what impressed me more than anything else was his personality on the pitch. He was just relentless! He worked harder than anyone.”
But beyond his raw talent in Salzburg, Erling Haaland left his mark on the locker room with his personality. He had a smile on his face and got along incredibly well with his teammates. Therefore, it wasn’t just his talent, it was his overall energy.
Erling in person had a really positive influence on his teammates. Erling the player, was a selfish assassin who scored 29 goals in 27 appearances for the Austrian club.
Meanwhile, he also always talked about making his teammates happy. “The best memory I Had of him was when we were getting penalties in just about every game, and he was giving them to all the other attacking players.“
“And then, after a player missed a penalty, I said Ok, Erling has to take the penalties and I told him he would be taking the penalties”
“It’s incredible to have such a talented player who loves to score goals, be the one that is giving the penalty responsibilities to the others because he wants them to feel the power of success, the power of scoring goals, and the power of confidence. That says a lot to me about the character of Erling.” Marsch revealed.
At 19, when most people think about personal glory, Haaland was already a perfect teammate and a future leader which was unprecedented for a player as good as he was and in his age range.
Without a doubt, Haaland’s personality was great enthusiastic and it did really have a big effect on a lot of people at Salzburg.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Influence
Erling Haaland may owe his incredible rise to his immense talent and his positive leadership qualities. But that’s not all, Cristiano Ronaldo also played a huge role in Haaland’s evolution.
People often say that Erling Haaland is the next Cristiano Ronaldo but is the CR7 comparison justified?
Certainly, Erling is more of a pure striker than Cristiano but from a power football perspective, his ability in the transition to affect games like the Portuguese ace makes the comparison justifiable.
Haaland himself admitted that Cristiano Ronaldo was his role model but if like Cristiano, Erling broke all the goalscoring records, it’s not really the part of football that CR7 has influenced.
Haaland is following in Cristiano Ronaldo’s footsteps in terms of leadership and he even is now a role model to many players just like Ronaldo was to him.
Cristiano Ronaldo has had positive effects on his teammates and in every team, he’s played in which really helped him overtime right from his days at Manchester United and Real Madrid. But for Erling, one could really see that right from his young age that it’s a natural quality he has.
It will be up to Haaland to continue to modify that aspect of himself and mold that in a way that he can become a really strong leader within his teams as he continues to grow older.
Above all, Haaland took inspiration from Cristiano Ronaldo in one essential area, work ethic. Like CR7, he’s always hungry to improve. “He really worked hard a lot. After training, he would stick around to finish, to hit some crosses, to work on his heading.” – Jesse Marsch, RB Salzburg Coach.
Like CR7, Erling Haaland thinks every little detail counts. He would wear special glasses because he felt like when you look at your computer all day long or your cell phone, that your eyes would start to fade and so he had that special glasses he always wears.
And while he has his own personality, Erling is directly inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo especially when it comes to nutrition and work ethic by picking the most hardworking professional football player in history as his role model.
Perfect With BVB
Borussia Dortmund activated his €20 million (£17m/$22m) release clause, beating United and Leipzig to his signature after all three clubs held meetings with the player, his father, and agent Mino Raiola.
Borussia Dortmund already had forward Paco Alcacer on the books, but saw Haaland as such a generational talent, that they were willing to offload the Spain international to give the Norwegian teen an even better chance of success.
CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke says that they had been looking for someone with Haaland’s particular skill set for a long time and could not pass up the opportunity to sign him.
“We always wanted to have a center-forward who has a different way of playing football,” Watzke told Goal and DAZN. “But this guy also had to come onto the market first.
There are not many who are 1.94 meters (6 ft 4 in) tall and that fast. Actually, nobody else comes to mind. It was just an opportunity that you don’t get very often. – Goal.com
Dortmund offered the striker the best chance of regular game time as they promised to make him their first-choice striker, something Alf-Inge Haaland admits is crucial to his development.
Haaland’s Dortmund story got off to the perfect start with the most incredible debut against Augsburg. Trailing 3-1, Lucien Favre sent on the teenager from the bench and was rewarded with a 22-minute hat-trick to help secure a 5-3 win.
Having revealed all the secrets that make Haaland an outstanding striker, in all honesty, the Norwegian striker has no limit because he keeps getting better at Dortmund.
He was incredible at Salzburg. “We were obviously so sad to lose him so quickly because we had a lot of fun and success with him, but we’re also very proud of him and we’re really excited to see him continue to push himself and move forward and show everybody in the world how good he is.”
And today, he’s showing just how good he is in Germany. He used to only be seen as a superpowered and superfast goalscorer. But at Dortmund? He’s also shown his technical advances and his in-game intelligence and influence.
He’s more and more capable of keeping the ball, playing in different positions, taking part in the game, in short, he’s become the ultimate striker.
Giving his unique skill-set and amazing personality, he will definitely sign for a bigger club in years to come. Yes, he may experience some difficulties, but his quality will help him manage whatever challenge that comes his way and in-turn become the best number 9 of not only his generation but in football history.