Antonio Rudiger explains how rough Berlin childhood gave him fighting spirit

Antonio Rudiger is one of football’s biggest characters. Full of energy, fight and personality, it has not taken long for the combative central defender to win the hearts of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The German international will be heading to the World Cup with the chance of making to the top of the game, having fought his way out of adversity. His parents moved from Sierra Leone to Berlin, where growing up in the area of Neukolln, Rudiger had to learn to defend himself from an early age.

Speaking to Diario AS, Rudiger explained how it contributed to the footballer he was today.

“It had a lot of influence, for sure. At home we were six brothers and there was not much money. And outside, in the streets, it was a very rough area, there were many refugees living there. For me, when I was little, fighting or fighting in the street was something normal. It was just normal. In the end, where I come from, only the strongest survive. That’s the way it is. And that is who I am today. Giving up is not in my DNA, it’s not in my mind. My mother calls me a soldier for this reason! And today I’m still like that, very stubborn. I do not like lose. It’s hard for me to accept it.”

However Rudiger did not recall that period of his life negatively, if anything thinking of it with nostalgia.

“It’s amazing because we were really happy. My family lived on the 16th floor of a very high-rise social housing building. My parents wouldn’t let me go out on the balcony because it was too unstable. But it was the best time of my life. For me, family is very important and we had a strong bond. And now it’s still the same. I miss those times. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were together, we were rich in that sense. Money was never part of our conversations.”

It seems that Rudiger managed to make the most of the difficult conditions. The best lesson his parents gave him? Not to be jealous.

“They always told me: the only way to achieve success is if you can also be happy for others. I was never taught to be jealous of others. And that is very important, because today we live in a world where people watch too much what others do. People compare themselves to other people. I do not do that. I believe that each person, on their own, is special. That’s the best thing they taught me.”

It was on the streets of Berlin that he learnt his trade too. It taught him toughness.

“In Neukolln, on the street! You can imagine what those games were like without a referee (laughs). A lot of fouls, a lot of hardness… Nobody wanted to lose. Sometimes we bet: ‘The one who loses has to go there and buy kebabs for the other’. Imagine the tension that was there! But it was great.”

“There was no one there who could help you, you were alone, the game was hard all the time and no one was going to come to help you.”

Rudiger’s personality on the pitch makes far more sense taking into account that upbringing. Often the German will be the most aggressive on the pitch.

His story is undoubtedly inspirational. Coming through those conditions to play for Real Madrid is a real life example of something often restricted to fiction and film.

Tags Antonio Rudiger Germany Real Madrid
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