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Richarlison has succeeded despite a life of hardships

New Everton player talks about overcoming poverty, a broken home, rejection, a near-death experience and more

Fluminense v Vitoria - Brasileirao Series A 2016
Richarlison playing for Fluminense back in 2016
Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

In an incredible eye-opening interview with football outlet FourFourTwo, new Everton signing Richarlison talked about the difficulties he had to overcome just to play football, and make it to where he is today.

(We have published some excerpts here, click through to the site for the full interview)

“My life could have ended several times from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“On the day that the guy pointed the gun at my head, he thought I was a drug dealer trying to steal his distribution point. I was scared. I thought: ‘If he pulls the trigger I’m dead’ – but I survived and moved on.

“I had a dream of being a footballer and I focused on training to reach my objective. I’ve always made the right choices and God has put me in the right place.”

The 21-year-old grew up in Vila Rubia, in the Nova Venecia area in south-eastern Brazil. While he didn’t have an idyllic childhood, he certainly had some happy memories.

“It’s a nice city and I always go home to visit when I have holiday. I like to fly my kite there – I was going to bring one back here, but it’s very cold and I can’t do it outside.

“I was raised by a very humble family, so I grew up playing with with kites and footballs. Once our neighbour cut their grass and threw it away, so me and my brother picked it up and planted it at my house to make a pitch. We made two goalposts and played football.”

His background meant he was ripe for the picking for a life of crime, but the support structure around Richarlison wouldn’t allow that to happen.

“Where I lived there were a lot of people that used drugs and guns, so although it was quiet, it was dangerous. Several times I was offered weed, but thank God I never smoked it. The coaches from my football school were police officers and they always gave me and my brother good advice.

“A lot of my friends got lost on drugs and most of them are in prison. I still talk to them, but I have a lot to be thankful for not going down that path. I had a conscience. I couldn’t do it.”

The youngster had a tough choice to make very early on when his parents separated.

“My mum and dad split up and she was moving out of Nova Venecia. I was on top of the moving truck we were leaving on and I jumped down and went running to my dad.

“I knew my mum, I wouldn’t play football or take me to games, so I went to my dad and stayed with him until I was 10.

“I worked at a car wash, I sold popsicles, made chocolate truffles and sometimes I would work with my grandfather, but I didn’t like it.”

Richarlison always knew football was where his future lay, and he continued to do whatever he could to play even getting trials with clubs Avai and Figueirense.

“Football, the game I’d played since I was a kid, was all I could think about. Every Monday I would run 9 km (5.5 miles) to the football school and train, whether it was in the hot sun or the rain. I didn’t want to do anything else.

“Figueirense told me they didn’t want me – on my birthday. I was very sad and thought about giving up..

“But when I got home to my family they gave me strength, and my coach at Gazetinha told me to keep going.”

Soon after he was able to secure another trial, this time for America-MG in Belo Horizonte, some 500 km (350 miles) from home, and he had no way back home, literally.

“I had a one-way ticket because I got hungry and spent the money for a return ticket on food. I had to succeed.”

He became an instant hit with the youth team and got called up to the America-MG senior team but once again he hit a bump on the road.

“I suffered a serious injury and had to have a screw put in my foot. I was out for three months.

“I would wake up at 5am to do my rehab and go home at 8pm. It was a very sad year, but I learned a lot from it and worked hard to come back even stronger.”

Come back he did, going on to score nine goals and four assists in 24 games for America-MG, before making the switch to Fluminense in Rio where more success awaited as he scored eleven times and had seven assists in 44 games as well as breaking through for the Brazil Under-20 team.

Riches and fame abroad beckoned as he first signed sponsorship deals with Nike and he was on his way to Ajax Amsterdam when he first heard from Marco Silva, then with Watford FC.

“The Watford offer came out of nowhere. Everything was arranged for Ajax when I received the call from Marco Silva.

“I ended up changing my mind because to play in the Premier League was a childhood dream, so I didn’t think twice before coming here.

“Ajax is a big club that plays in the Champions League and I would have got more money there. I came here to play in the Premier League and stand out. No amount of money could ruin my dream.”

At Watford, his first appearance for the side was as a substitute against Liverpool and he immediately made a mark starting the next game against AFC Bournemouth and scoring his first goal.

“After I scored my first goal [against Bournemouth] I ran to the centre of the pitch and the crowd started to sing my name – as soon as I realised I got emotional.”

One he settled in with the Hornets, Richarlison’s discipline and focus was unwavering, and he even turned down an offer to go party with superstar Neymar.

“Neymar was in London playing for Brazil against England. After the game he called me and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends on a night out.

“It was a great opportunity. As a kid I would copy Neymar a lot. I even styled my hair in a mohawk and used hair-straightening product. But I’d played on the Saturday and needed to rest, and I had training the next day so I decided to stay at home.

“The training in England is hard. The players are always out to get you. Every time I get the ball I jump because I know they’re going to hit me.”

Richarlison holds Everton manager Marco Silva in high regard, even going on to say that he is like a father-figure to him in an Everton interview.

“Marco Silva helped me a lot. He’s a very organised guy who demands a lot from his players. He was always out on the training pitch, showing us how to start games and making us believe we can beat anyone.”

The youngster knows what it means to be where he is, but he is far from done.

“I was rejected by Avaí and Figueirense, but today I’m playing in Premier League against great players.

“When I played against Manchester United for Watford and saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it made my eyes shine. This is a childhood dream that came true.

“If I stay focused, train hard and [Brazil manager] Tite sees that, he will call me.

“I will raise my level. I think about playing in the Champions League and being the top scorer in the Premier League. I came to England to make history.”

You know that Richarlison is going to be 200% motivated to prove the naysayers wrong especially about living up to his massive transfer fee, you can bet your bottom dollar on this boy from the favela.

(Read the original interview as published in FourFourTwo here)