Arsenal defender Gabriel Paulista recently spoke about his difficult childhood growing up in south Sao Paulo. The 24-year-old revealed that seeing his mother live in problematic conditions in his native country motivated him to help give her a better home.
“She lived in a shack in a favela,” Gabriel told Arsenal Player. “I talk about it because I am not ashamed of saying it, and today I am proud of being able to help her, to give her a better life, and me as well because I always dreamed about it. Thanks to God, things are coming true.”
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The defender also detailed some of his own obstacles growing up in the south American country:
“I have seen many things on the outdoor neighborhood pitches. I have seen death, I have witnessed robberies, I’ve been robbed in Sao Paulo. I’ve seen many things. I practically grew up with this. But thanks to God I took a path in my life because, for all that I have seen, for the bad things I have witnessed, my life could have been very different.”
“But I was strong. I thought about my mother’s story and told myself that my mother couldn’t go through this anymore. She can’t, she must have a better life. So thanks to God I took a different path and am here today. I am fulfilling a dream I had since I was little, and thanks to God things are moving in the right direction.”
Gabriel began his career with Brazilian outfit Vitória before moving to Spanish side Villarreal in 2013. The defender quickly made an impression with the Yellow Submarine and made 50 appearances for the club during his year-and-a-half in Spain.
Arsenal came calling for Gabriel in January, five months after fellow center back Thomas Vermaelen was sold to Barcelona. The Gunners paid Villarreal around £11 million for Gabriel, a fee that currently looks like a steal of a deal. While it is still early in the defender’s Premier League career, the Brazilian has been nothing short of outstanding since his arrival in January, flashing the potential to become one of the elite center backs in England.
The Gunners have lost only one Premier League match in which Gabriel has featured (11 total appearances). The loss happened to be the fiery game against Chelsea last month in which Gabriel was sent off. Gabriel’s high level of play has helped his team record four clean sheets in the five league matches this season in which he has started.
The Brazilian ended the interview with his club’s website by wishing his personal story can serve as hope to youngsters growing up in similar conditions:
“Everybody knows about the corruption happening, and every day is a surprise. So I think Brazilians don’t like seeing that, but the kids have so many opportunities to play. Every neighborhood has a football academy for the kids to follow this path, which is something I also want for the neighborhood where I was born.
“I want to serve as a mirror to them, for them to see that I have gone through difficult times and managed to do it, and see that they can do it too. It’s not just me. If you work hard and respect the people above us, you can do it.”
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