In the final report in our series with Gatorade, Goal examines the lifestyle choices aspiring footballers need to make in order to reach the very top of the game
Everybody has a story to tell about the most talented footballer at their school. A player who seemed supremely gifted when he was young, who appeared destined for the professional game, but just didn’t have what it took to translate the gift he displayed into a career at the top level.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the sport is the concoction necessary for somebody to make it as a pro – and the everyday experiences that teenagers need to sacrifice in order to pursue their dreams.
“I love football, and football is not only played on a Sunday,” said AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli when asked recently how he managed to stay on the right track as a youngster. “You have to prepare yourself during the week for Sunday.
“You can have girls if you want but you can’t go to clubs and drink and do stupid things or go to sleep late. I used to do this when I was maybe 15 or 16, but after that I stopped and that’s ok because either you want to be a footballer or you want to be a normal guy.”
Former Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira believes that there is no way of cutting corners when it comes to realising ambition.
“Dreaming alone takes you nowhere. Dreams are good for seeing where you can go and what goals you can reach. You have to also pay the price,” he tells Goal.
“I paid my price. I was 24 years old when I was appointed by the Brazilian government to be the coach of the Ghana national team. Ghana had asked the Brazilians to send a coach there and I was selected, even though I was very young.
“My salary was $100, but that didn’t matter. It was important only that it was an opportunity. I had the vision to accept that.
“Everybody who is successful has had to pay their price. I am happy that I went step by step. It was important to have a target, have the discipline to reach it, then action it.”
Parreira went from humble beginnings and no real playing background to become a world-class coach, with everything coming from a single dream of being able to celebrate with the Brazil team as others had managed when the Selecao won their first World Cup in 1958.
Meanwhile, ex-Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown insists that there is little to lose in throwing yourself into a career in football.
“I didn’t see it as a sacrifice,” he told Goal at a Gatorade event in London. “It was what I wanted to do more than anything else. It was only when I looked back on my career having realised that 23 years had gone by when I might have been doing other things, but effectively I was doing what everyone else wanted to do anyway.
“People thank us for what we did as players but it was all our pleasure and we had a lot of fun in the process. You have to make sport fun, but enjoyable as well.”
Even the most talented players have to make some sort of sacrifice to succeed, while there are countless examples of players whose determination and work ethic has more than made up for a shortfall in natural ability. Winning comes from within.
Find out more about the fuel of football and how Gatorade fuels the unreal experiences of players at www.gatoradefootball.com or www.gssiweb.org. #BeUnreal