From playing barefoot on gravel roads with their township’s locals watching on, to playing in sold-out stadiums around the world with a pair of sponsored boots – some of the past and present greats started with nothing but a dream. Perhaps they never imagined their lives turning out the way it did, but their success stories can provide inspiration for today’s youth.
The Fan Park crew takes a look at some players who’ve gone from having nothing to having it all.
The Ghanaian attacking-midfielder who was recently named the Player of the Tournament at the 2015 African Cup of Nations, once had to sell ice-cold water to pedestrians in the streets of his homeland to earn money. Now 23-years-old, Atsu has represented Everton, FC Porto and was also once on Chelsea’s books.
He is currently valued at around £5 million (R51 million).
Ronaldo de Lima
The Brazilian striker, who played for top clubs in Europe like Real Madrid, AC Milan, Barcelona and Inter Milan, is another player who started plying his trade in poor suburban streets. Ronaldo, who won the Ballon d’Or twice, struggled to afford the bus fare to get him to and from practice. What he legend he became!
The Cameroonian star grew up sharing a bed with a few of his six siblings in their cramped house in Doula. Eto’o and his brothers used to make soccer balls out of wrapped plastic and he was fortunate enough to be spotted by scouts, who lured him away to Spain where he started his professional career with Real Madrid. Today he has played over 450 professional games for several different top-flight clubs including Barcelona.
Steven ‘Schillo’ Pienaar
The retired Bafana international who grew up in Westbury, a township in Johannesburg, watched TV from the floor of his small home because his mother had fears of stray bullets reaching him through the windows. Today, he is one of the most successful South African footballers to have played football abroad. Schillo has played for Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
The Argentinian legend, whose name is arguably one of the most recognisable names in world sport, never had the easiest of upbringings. Diego used to share a room with seven siblings and wasn’t fortunate enough to get an education. Wow! His passion for the game was what kept him steady and in 1986 he almost singlehandedly led his country to a World Cup victory. Today he is regarded as one of the all-time greats!
Catch up on more footballers who’ve gone from rags to riches at 3:00 pm tomorrow!