'I would elastico the drug dealers' - Man Utd's Antony recalls 'hell' of Sao Paulo upbringing
- Brazilian grew up in tough neighbourhood
- Never backed down from any challenge
- Now a Premier League & World Cup star
WHAT HAPPENED? The Brazil international is now running rings around Premier League defenders after securing a big-money transfer to Old Trafford in 2022, while he will also form part of Tite’s plans at the World Cup finals in Qatar. At 22 years of age, Antony has come a long way in a short space of time, with ability to play without fear that was honed in the sometimes dangerous surrounds of his youth allowing a rapid rise to the top to the made.
WHAT THEY SAID: Antony has told The Players’ Tribune of his experiences growing up: ''I was born in hell. That’s not a joke. For my European friends who don’t know, the favela where I grew up in Sao Paulo is actually called Inferninho — ‘little hell’. It's an infamous place. Fifteen steps from our front door, there were always drug dealers doing their business, passing stuff hand-to-hand. The smell was constantly outside our window. Actually, one of my first memories is my father getting up from the couch on a Sunday and going to yell at the guys to walk down the street a little bit and leave us in peace, because his kids were inside trying to watch the football match. We were so used to seeing guns that it was not even scary. They were just a part of everyday life. We were more scared of the police knocking down our door.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Antony went on to add of mastering the art of beating opponents with quick feet: ''Every day, my older brother would take me to the square to play football. In the favela, everyone plays. Kids, old men, teachers, construction workers, bus drivers, drug dealers, gangsters. There, everyone is equal. In my father’s time it was a dirt pitch. In my time, it was asphalt. In the beginning, I played barefoot, on bleeding feet. We did not have money for proper shoes. I was small, but I dribbled with a meanness that came from God. Dribbling was always something inside me. It was a natural instinct. And I refused to bow my head to anyone. I would elastico the drug dealers. Rainbow the bus drivers. Nutmeg the thieves. I really did not give a f*ck. With a ball at my feet, I had no fear.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? United bought into that mindset and ability to the tune of £85 million ($102m) when prising Antony away from Ajax, with the South American forward making history through his early weeks in England as he became the first man to score in his first three Premier League appearances for the Red Devils.