10 Famous Soccer Players Who Grew Up Poor

Raheem Sterling soccer players who grew up poor
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Dr. Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International, once opined, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is enough.”

A number of soccer stars who seem well enough to afford a life of today had quite a forgettable childhood experience owing to the unfortunate and sorry case of their parents and families to provide a life of affluence.

But thanks to the round leather game, which has been a viable tool to eliminate the much-underprivileged lifestyles of these players, right now, they do not only live alluring lifestyles on and off the pitch, but they also help lift numerous people around them out of poverty which is a rewarding gesture.

Soccer, or football, is often seen as a sport that provides a pathway out of poverty for talented young players. In this article, we will explore the lives and careers of soccer players who grew up poor

Here are 10 famous soccer stars who grew up poor

1. Victor Osimhen

Victor Osimhen best young strikers in the world 2023
(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Nigerian and Napoli striker Victor Osimhen is currently the most expensive African soccer player ever.

However, he is one of the few soccer players who grew up poor.

Despite the challenges he faced at a young age, Osimhen has shown remarkable resilience and determination.

Losing his mother and his father’s job left him and his six siblings in a world of uncertainty, but they persevered.

Even though their family could only afford one of the many makeshift houses around the Olusosun rubbish dump in Lagos State, which is known for its unpleasant conditions, Osimhen did not let that stop him.

He found a way to make a living by chasing after vehicles selling sachet water, popularly known as ‘pure water’. His ability to adapt and overcome obstacles is a testament to his strength and determination.

Now, the Serie A is one of the highest-paid players in Italy and is considered one of the best strikers in the world.

2. Ángel Di María

Angel Di Maria footballers with the most
(Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

Now a World Cup winner, Ángel Di María, during his childhood days, never knew what was waiting for him as an adult while he watched his parents work in a coal mine and earn very little in his city of birth, Rosario.

As a teenager, he began his illustrious football career in Rosario and soon moved to Europe.

After his sojourn into Europe, his family automatically exited the abject lifestyle, and the rest is now history.

3. Neymar Jr.

Neymar Jr youngest captains in football history
(Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

There were days when soccer’s most expensive player couldn’t afford football shoes as a result of tremendous poverty.

In fact, Neymar’s first pair of shoes as a soccer player was picked from one landfill.

In those days, Neymar, whose father was working in ports and parking lots, was committed to the cause of becoming a superstar – playing with his feet in the streets of Brazil.

Within a few years, he made it to Santos and attracted the attention of every major club, mostly from Europe.

Now, Neymar Jr is not just one of the highest-paid soccer in the world, but also among the richest.

4. Raheem Sterling 

Raheem Sterling soccer players who grew up poor
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Raheem Sterling grew up in a poor family in the Maverley area of Kingston, which was known for its high crime rates.

When he was five years old, Raheem and his mother, Nadine Clarke, emigrated to London, England.

They settled in the St. Raphael’s Estate, a public housing complex in the northwest London borough of Brent. The area was also known for its high crime rates and social deprivation.

And like many other footballers, soccer was the saving grace for Sterling, who was scouted by Queens Park Rangers (QPR) at the age of ten.

He has been on ascendancy since then, having played for some of the biggest sides in England’s elite division.

Also, poverty is now a thing of the past for the Chelsea winger.

5. Sadio Mané

Sadio Mané
(Photo by Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Like Neymar, Sadio Mane found his passion for the game very early and also started with nothing.

As a kid, he didn’t even have a formal education as his parents couldn’t afford it.

He played on the streets of Bambali in Senegal barefooted for years alongside his friends, who were also poor and helpless, before a French scout found him during his teenage days in Dakar and took him to France to exhibit his outstanding talent.

Fast forward to today, Mane has played for reputable sides in Europe, won silverware, and etched his name in the top echelons of the game.

He has gotten more than enough recognition as an African in world football. And what’s more? Sadio Mané also helps the needy too.

Sadio Mané has been involved in several philanthropic acts, including donating £500,000 to fund the construction of a hospital in his hometown of Bambali, Senegal, and winning the Socrates Award for his charity work. .

6. Roberto Firmino 

Roberto Firmino Soccer Players Who Wear Number 9
(Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

Like several other Brazilian players, Firmino was also born and bred in an extremely poor family where his father and mother could only afford a plate of food.

His parent were persuaded to allow “Bobby” to play street football as his talent was seen as the escaping route out of poverty for the family.

Firmino’s impressive displays in street football attracted the attention of a German scout who took the 16-year-old Firmino to Germany, where he developed pretty well and was sold to Liverpool.

7. Luka Modrić

Luka Modric best midfielders in the world 2022
(Photo by James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images)

For Modrić, poverty wasn’t the only bane of his childhood.

Young Modrić was working as a goat shepherd while staying with his grandfather, who was killed by the Serbian rebels during the peak of the Croatian War of Independence.

The demise of his grandfather further amplified the difficult life he was living as their house was also set on fire, and his family was forced to leave the area.

Despite the difficulties, Modrić’s natural love for soccer never waned, and he showed steady growth in size and capability.

It’s 2023, and Modrić has become one of the far-famed soccer superstars, winning all there is to win in club football and leading the Croatian national team to a second and third-place finish at the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cup tournaments, respectively.

8. Cristiano Ronaldo 

Cristiano Ronaldo soccer players who grew up poor
(Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Ronaldo represents the dedication and hard work because he was also subjected to abject poverty as a kid, so much so that he had to share a room with his mother and two older sisters.

Also, Reports say that the two-time Manchester United forward was almost aborted pre-birth by his mother, while after birth, he got expelled from school after he threw a chair at the teacher who disrespected him.

Well, fortune smiled on Ronaldo after his switch from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United in 2003. Fame, success, and wealth became the other of the day for Ronaldo from then.

In December 2022, Ronaldo agreed to a contract with the Saudi Arabian outfit, valid for two years and a half; the total salary was said to be close to €200m per year – which is believed to be the biggest salary ever in football.

9. Luis Suárez

Luis Suárez footballers born in January
(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

Luis Suárez is considered to be one of the greatest Uruguayan soccer players of all time and the most lethal strikers of his generation.

Suárez’s early years were spent playing football without shoes on the streets of Salto, as his father worked as a porter to provide for their family.

Despite the challenges he faced, Suárez has always credited his difficult upbringing for his success in football.

Growing up as the middle child of seven siblings in Salto, almost 500 kilometers from Montevideo, Suárez and his family later moved to the capital when he was seven.

“The only shoes he had were for school, not for playing football,” revealed Suarez’s mother, Sandra, in an interview with Sport. “But that never stopped him from playing the game he loved, and he often played barefoot to ensure he never missed a game.”

10. Alexis Sánchez

Alexis Sánchez soccer players who grew up poor
(Photo by Christian Liewig – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Chilean forward grew up poor in the humble mining town of Tocopilla, Chile, where he faced numerous challenges in his youth.

Despite his incredible talent, his family struggled to provide him with football boots to play at the highest level.

In a bid to make ends meet, Sánchez’s mother took up a cleaning job at his school, a situation the Arsenal star was not proud of.

However, Sánchez persevered, washing cars and performing acrobatics on the streets to supplement his family’s income while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional footballer.

Through sheer determination and hard work, Sánchez rose through the ranks and achieved his goal.


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