The story of Brazilian football’s interaction with poverty and adversity is nothing new. Pele-Garrincha to Romario-Rivaldora are the characters of this story. By overcoming obstacles, they have raised their flag of excellence on the football stage. Even in the modern era, the tradition of this story has not ended. Fighting adverse conditions, Brazilian stars are still spreading light in the football world. The story is not different in Raphinha. Yes, that Raphinha, over whom Chelsea and Barcelona fought a few days ago. After winning that battle, Barcelona took Raphinha to Camp Nou from Leeds United. And this Brazilian is now one of Barcelona’s biggest hopes.
Raphinha was born in 1996 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Porto Alegre looks familiar. You guessed it, this is the city where the legendary Brazilian footballer Ronaldinho, who is also Rafinha’s childhood hero, was born.
From a childhood in one of Brazil’s most populous cities, Raphinha has had to fight hunger, poverty, and temptation. He had to fight more with the traps of being lost than with hunger and poverty. “I have to be honest, it’s quite complicated,” the Brazilian wrote at the beginning of his story on UOL eSports.
When someone wants to tell the truth at the beginning of the story, the story is not supposed to be a simple story. Raphinha’s story did not happen either. Considering most Brazilian footballers, his story is not too unfamiliar. Yet everyone has their own story, their own struggle. How many names are forgotten after starting the journey with Raphinha. How many have been lost in time? There are few like Raphinha, who can set an example for future generations.
The morning sun predicts the whole day. Sometimes there are exceptions. Rafinha’s own story also had a sordid beginning. Narrating the opening story, Raphinha writes, ‘In the neighborhood where I was born, it is difficult to stay focused. I come from Restinga (an area in Porto Alegre), where it’s hard to stay on track and not go astray.’
The way to get lost was open to Raphinha as well as the companions. At every step, there was money or a drug trap.
Yet some are born to do something different without following these visible paths. How was the path, let’s hear from Raphinha’s mouth, ‘many opportunities come. They promise you an easy way to earn money. And this is the trap, where people get lost. I never went that way. But I have been a witness, I have walked beside those people who are lost.’
The easy way that money grabbers usually talk about is never easy. But once you fall into this temptation, the way out gradually closes. Many talented faces are lost prematurely without being able to come out.
Raphinha’s regret about those talented friends is like this, ‘I have lost many of my friends in crime and drug trade. I lost friends who used to play 10 times better than me. They could have played in any of the best clubs in the world if they wanted.
I have lost many friends to crime and drug dealing. I lost friends who used to play 10 times better than me. They could have played in any of the best clubs in the world if they wanted to.Rafinha, the Brazilian star of Barcelona
But talent alone cannot change the course of the story or the path. Dedication and hard work must also be there. And this is where Raphinha differs. He knew what he wanted and how to get it.
He used these examples in front of him in a different way. From a very young age, I knew what I wanted. Achieving this goal of wanting to become a footballer was a big sacrifice in his own area. But I had a greater desire, from which I never deviated. If someone talks about my magic in football today, I would say — that is the real magic.’
This magic, however, did not come easily. He has had to struggle to avoid the temptation to stay steadfast in his goals. Even if there is no shortage of food at home, one has to beg for food. Raphinha had to go far away from home almost every day to play and practice. At that time, there was no extra money in Raphinha ‘s pocket.
As Raphinha described what happened after the practice, ‘It would be unfair to say that I suffered from hunger. Because my parents never lacked food at home. Still, after practice, I would stand on the side of the road asking people to buy me something to eat. Some people helped me, others didn’t. There was nothing to do but wait for the bus to take me home. After that, I could eat something. It was when I was 12 to 14 years old.’
Raphinha did not forget the contribution of the family to passing this way. Explaining how her family stood by her on the journey to her dreams, Raphinha says, ‘It was because of my family that I didn’t drop out of school and didn’t give in to the temptation to take the wrong path. It is because of them that I am here today.’