Poverty can be a powerful motivator, growing up in the streets without food, money or luxuries with just a dream in mind. Some of the biggest names in the game come from the most humble of backgrounds – life wasn’t handed to them on a silver platter; they had to earn things. Here are three footballers that grew up in extreme poverty.


Born in Recife, one of Brazil’s most poverty-ridden slums, Rivaldo had an extremely difficult time growing up. At one point in his childhood, he was so malnourished that he became bow-legged and lost several of his teeth as a result of his lack of nutrients. Aged just 15, his father tragically passed away and in order to support his family he sold snacks outside schools, but through all the heartache and struggle one thing persisted, his passion for football. Against all the odds, he went on to become a footballing legend regarded as one of the best players of his generation. In a stellar career lasting over 24 years, Rivaldo won 12 league titles in six countries, a Champions League with Milan and a Copa America and a World Cup with Brazil whilst also winning the 1999 Ballon d’Or.

Carlos Tevez

Now earning in the region of £615,000-a-week, Argentinian footballer Carlos Tevez was born in Fuerte Apache, an area considered to be one of the poorest and most dangerous areas in the whole of Argentina. In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2011, Tevez said “it was a really poor neighbourhood. Everything was really hard. When it was dark and you looked out of the window, what you saw would scare anyone. After a certain time you could not go into the street. We didn’t have football boots and we used a broken tennis ball instead of a football”. The striker credits his dribbling ability to having to weave around shattered glass and syringes in an effort to avoid injury. Arising from an area where drugs, violence, guns and rape are all a way of life, Tevez’s path has taken him from abject poverty to a life of luxury.


Born in Mogi das Cruzes a suburb of São Paulo, Neymar’s story of rags-to-riches is nothing short of incredible. As a child, Neymar’s family were so poor that his Father had to work three jobs in order to make ends meet. Despite his Father working countless hours, money remained so tight that they struggled to afford electricity, with frequent power outages due to unpaid bills. Just when things looked like they couldn’t get any worse the whole family (him, his Father, his Mother and Sister) had to move into their grandparent’s property to save money, with the entire family sharing just one mattress. Now earning in the region of £575,000-a-week, Neymar’s journey from a cramped Brazilian shanty town to Paris via Barcelona is a dream come true.

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