Football's talented survivors

Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor & Diego Maradona have all overcome hardship in their lives

Adam Williams
Published 04/03/2013 13:10 by Adam Williams, read by 1,292 people.

Can you imagine going from nothing to earning £200,000 a week? Coming from an over-populated shanty town, to become the greatest footballer in the world? Taking on the heat and danger of Africa or South America, to taking on the world's best in the velvety conditions of world football?

For the lucky majority of us, football is a leisurely past time. Competing on a Sunday afternoon with a good group of friends, before nipping down the pub to celebrate or drown your sorrows.

The portrayal of your typical footballer is in stark contrast to some of the best players the world has ever seen.

It was a Sunday afternoon, I pull over my team's shirt and glance outside to check the weather.

I opted for my Puma King 'Maradona edition' boots for today's game. I grab an extra layer and head to the well kept pitches of my home town, freezing temperatures being my biggest worry.

Not quite the routine some of the world's best ever players had to endure before lighting up our screens, and the biggest stages in the world. In fact, some of the best players our game has ever seen, came from the most desperate conditions of poverty.

Diego Maradona

He is arguably the best player the world has ever seen. But before scintillating, solo goals on the biggest stages across the world became Maradona's forte, he endured a childhood in the shanty town of Villa Fiorito, sharing a room with seven siblings. 

According to a local resident during Diego's formative years: "He had nothing else but football." "He was not educated, he had no sophistication. He was shirtless and barefooted. He was just this street kid with a gift from God."


This Brazilian footballing legend, born in Paulista, Brazil, was the European Footballer of the Year in 1999. During his formative years, Rivaldo was so impoverished that he lost his teeth to malnutrition and was dangerously thin and muscularly underdeveloped well into his teens. He later went on to become European Footballer of the Year in 1999, among other honours:

The FIFA World Cup in 2002 with Brazil

The UEFA Champions League title in 2003 with AC Milan

The Copa Italia title in 2003 with AC Milan

The European Super Cup in 2003 with AC Milan

He earned distinguished titles across many different leagues right up until 2013, when he moved to San Caentano at the age of 40, where his contract runs until December.

Carlos Tevez

Tevez, now playing for Manchester City- and being paid a reported £280,000 a week (yes, £40,000 a day!) wasn't always as fortunate.

Tevez was born in Fuerte Apache, a neighbourhood near the city of Buenos Aires. A recent census in 2001 recorded that Fuerte Apache houses 17,777 people on 4,657 residences, although there may be up to four times that number as tenants tend to lease 'spare room' for extra income. It's fair to presume it wasn't a spacious place to have a leisurely kick-a-bout, and maybe that's where he got his great ball control from; weaving in and out of fellow neighbours/housing and room mates?

Tevez's facial and neck scars come from a boiling water accident when he was a child. When he moved to Boca Juniors in 2001 they offered to cosmetically remove them, but he refused, stating the scars are a part of who he was in the past, and who he is today.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Adebayor's club history speaks volumes for his talent: Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid, and Tottenham Hotspur. Named African Player of the Year in 2008, his career has been a successful one thus far, but it all could have ended prematurely.

The story of the Togo national team bus coming under gunfire on the way to the 2010 African Cup of Nations shocked the world. The image of Adebayor clinging tearfully to team-mates in the aftermath of such brutality is a testament of just how far these determined football players have come, and will go, to play the beautiful game.

With the average wage in Togo coming in at £600-£800 a year, Adebayor is now earning more than 3,750 times that. 

Lucky, yes, but he didn't become so well paid over night. He didn't cement himself in such prestigious team line-ups by mistake. And he certainly didn't get noticed at the age of seven, playing football with tennis balls, by accident.

All of these players have incredible passion and determination to evolve into their far and few between, heroes of the game.

Football has a special way of installing dreams of escape in youngsters around the globe. And with an extraordinary amount of determination, skill, passion and love for the game, these are examples of where it all paid off.


DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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