World Cup 2018: How Brazilian footballer Gabriel Jesus is role model for poor youth

Latin America

In this file photo taken on May 20, 2018 Residents play football in a field with the image of Brazilian football player Gabriel Jesus in the background, painted on the walls of houses in the Perus neighborhood, were he lived during his childhood in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA)

Often in Brazil, the best football players come from poor communities. The people of the Jardim Peri slum, on the outskirts of São Paulo, have a famous son to be proud of. It’s the Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus, honored in a giant mural painted on the walls overlooking the local football field.

CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports.

They community also created a song for him, and it’s well known by the kids in the community.

The lyrics sing of the words speaking of the players childhood in the slum:

“From playing barefoot in a dirt pitch to a star in England. I fell down and stood up but was never intimidated. I never gave up dreaming. Struggling is part of me.”

The star will soon to be playing for Brazil in the World Cup. He recently returned to Jardim Peri to see the mural and his fans. Many people still remember when Gabriel Jesus was a hardworking kid from the neighborhood.

“Gabriel Jesus dreamed of being a player, but he never dropped out of school. I remember him, before he rose to fame, passing by here with his books on his way to school. That’s a big difference. I hope the kids here will follow his example,” said shop-owner Gisele Xavier.

Brazil’s striker Gabriel Jesus is pictured during the International friendly football match between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield in Liverpool on June 3, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF)

Jesus’ success story is an inspiration for the kids living in this poor community. Fourteen-year-old Jose Bispo is one of them. He said he’s working hard and training football to have a successful future.

“I love football, and I wanna go as far as Gabriel Jesus went. If he did, we can do it as well. But for that, we need will strength and really want it. If we really want it, we can get there,” Bispo said.

Brazil’s striker Gabriel Jesus (L) vies with Croatia’s striker Ivan Perisic during the International friendly football match between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield in Liverpool on June 3, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARF)

The football coach and teacher who works in the community hopes for more players with the talent of Gabriel Jesus appear.

“There’s much potential here. I am sure we have kids here that could have an opportunity to do what Gabriel did”, said coach Andre Rocha Ferreira.

Like millions of people around Brazil, football fans in Jardim Peri will be watching the World Cup and rooting for the National Team. In this community, hopes are that the local kid who made it big will rise to be the star of this tournament.