Four quotes we loved from Antony's long read
It’s an exciting time for Manchester United winger Antony, with our no.21 gearing up for his first World Cup with Brazil.
The Selecao are the bookmakers’ favourites to lift the trophy next month in December and if they do so it would cap an unbelievable year for the 22-year-old, after his headline-grabbing move from Ajax during the summer.
Antony has risen to the top of the sport following his well-documented tough upbringing in the favelas of Sao Paulo, a topic which forms the backbone of an illuminating and vibrant long read in the Players’ Tribune.
In the piece, which is presented as the first-person viewpoint of our tricky attacker, Antony speaks at length about the difficulties he experienced as a youngster in Brazil and his meteoric rise to United and the national team.
Here are the four sections that we enjoyed the most…
EARLY LIFE IN ‘LITTLE HELL’
He touched upon it in his United signing interview, but Antony’s early years in Sao Paulo’s Inferninho – Portuguese for ‘little hell’ – favela really were a million miles away from the glitz and glamour of elite football. He recalls the overpowering smell of drugs and the presence of firearms being so common they didn’t even scare people. But perhaps the most shocking revelation in the whole story comes when he tells the tale of coming across a dead body on his way to school…
“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 realized 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. I am not saying this to sound tough. It was just my reality.”
FULFILLING A PROMISE
Antony vividly recalls the moment he saw a red Range Rover while walking through the neighbourhood with his mother, shortly after joining the local futsal team – his first step on the path to the professional game. He vows to her that, one day, when he’s made it as a player, he’ll buy her the car and let her drive it. She doesn’t believe him, but it eventually comes to pass.
“One year later, I was at Ajax, playing in the Champions League,” he writes. “That’s how fast things changed. I not only had my own bed, but the red Range Rover was in my mother’s driveway.
“I told her, “You see? I told you that I would conquer. And I conquered.”
REMAINING DOWN TO EARTH
That previous quote may make Antony come across as materialistic and keen to leave his upbringing firmly behind. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even as he broke through and started competing for trophies with Sao Paulo, the city’s biggest club, he remained grounded and still very much a part of Inferninho.
“People think I am lying when I tell them this, but even after I made my professional debut for São Paulo, I was still living in the favela,” he said.
“No, no — this is the truth — at 18, I was still sleeping in the bed with my dad. It was either that or the couch! We had no other choice. Man, even in 2019 when I scored the goal against Corinthians in the Paulista Final, I was right back in the neighborhood that night. People were pointing at me on the street:
“I just saw you on TV. What are you doing here???”
“Brother, I live here.”
“Everyone laughed. They did not believe it.”
FOOTBALL: A GAME TO BE ENJOYED
Antony hit the headlines last month, as some took exception to a piece of skill he exhibited during a Europa League tie with Sheriff Tiraspol. Despite it not harming the team during a game we went on to win 3-0, it became a topic of discussion for a couple of days in England, but the Brazilian says such expressive play is in his blood and that nothing he does on the football pitch is wasted energy.
“In life, we suffer enough. We worry enough. We cry enough. But in football? With a ball at your feet, you should only feel joy.
“I was born a dribbler. It is part of my roots. It is the gift that took me from the slums to the Theatre of Dreams. I will never change the way I play, because it is not a style, it is me. It is a part of me. A part of our story as Brazilians.
“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.”