Manchester United and Brazil star Antony has become the latest footballer to appear on The Player’s Tribune, to tell their story. The young Brazilian has nothing short of a harrowing, if now heart-warming, success story.
The 22-year-old has grown to be household name in European football in the space of just two seasons following his move from Sao Paulo to Ajax in 2020 and then a move to Manchester United for €95m this past summer.
His rise looks rapid from the outside, but it has been a long journey to this point. Opening up on his past, Antony told the Player’s Tribune his backstory.
“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 São Paulo is actually called Inferninho — ‘little hell’.”
“It is 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. One time, they invaded our house looking for someone and they came running in screaming. They found nothing, of course. But when you’re so young, those moments mark you.”
Another moment that marked him is unimaginable for the vast majority of people too.
“On my walk to school one morning, when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old, I came across a man laying in the alley. He was not moving. When I got closer, I realised he was dead. In the favela, you become kind of numb to these things. There was no other way to go, and I had to get to school. So I just closed my eyes and jumped over the dead body.”
Recently Antony received criticism for doing a turn on the ball in time and space at Old Trafford, one that many saw as pointless showboating. Something that Antony seemed keen to address in his piece without actually mentioning it.
“If you just watch one 10 second clip of me, then you will not understand. Nothing I do is a joke. Everything has a purpose. To go forward with boldness, to strike fear into the opponent, to create space, to make a difference for my team.”
“If you think I’m just a clown, then you don’t understand my story. The art of Ronaldinho and Cristiano and Neymar inspired me as a child. I watched these Gods in amazement on stolen Wifi, then I went out to the concrete pitch to try to imitate their genius.”
Antony has made it into the Brazil squad and will form part of arguably the most-feared attack at the World Cup, including Neymar Junior, Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo Goes, and Raphinha. His journey is the definition of rags to riches.
You can read the full article here.