Neymar’s journey to riches

Inquirer Libre - Davao - - SPORTS -

SAO PAULO — Neymar’s journey to a recordbreaking transfer fee of $262 million started in a poor district of southern Brazil, a few blocks from the local dump.

A spectacular move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain is expected to be completed this week after the 25year-old striker and his father met with officials of the Catalan club Wednesday, telling them that Neymar wanted to leave.

The son of a journeyman soccer player for Brazil’s smallest teams, Neymar was born in the industrial city of Mogi das Cruzes, some 60 kilometers north of Sao Paulo, the country’s biggest metropolis.

He never settled there, as his father’s career as a striker and family breadwinner meant they were always moving on.

When Neymar was 6, the family moved in with his grandmother in Sao Vicente, a beach town 50 kilometers south of Sao Paulo. And when his sister Rafaella was born, the family moved again, this time to a bigger house in Jardim Gloria, a district in the poorer city of Praia Grande. Both homes were within reach of Santos, the Brazilian club made world famous by Pele and where the youngster first known as Juninho would start his own soccer career.

While his family was anything but wealthy, Juninho was the richest kid around at Jardim Gloria.

Neymar’s house was properly built, not a shack like those of many of his school friends. His street was properly paved and allowed him to play barefoot all day long, though he didn’t have to walk far to find dirt roads surrounded by wild vegetation. While other kids were lucky to have many toys, he had 50 footballs in his home collection at age 14. He even had a video game, which was a dream for most of his neighbors.

Neymar put down some solid roots during his nine years at Jardim Gloria, and today his charity - the Neymar Jr. Institute - is based in the area. The local dump, where some of the local people used to earn a living from recycling, has been closed and the district has improved dramatically since Neymar’s family first moved there more than a decade ago.

As for the interest in soccer, that started when Neymar was just 2, according to his father.

In 1998, at the age of 6, he was spotted by Betinho dos Santos, a talent scout for the club Santos and who had also discovered another Brazil star, Robinho. CHRISTIAN Standhardinger has been dribbling a ball ever since he was a small boy. In his early years, like most boys growing up in Germany, he did it with his feet in an open grass field.

“I’m a late bloomer (in basketball),” Standhardinger told the Inquirer after Gilas Pilipinas finished fourth in the Jones Cup in Taipei, where he made his international debut for the country. “I have my grandfather to thank for that.”

The 6-foot-8 forward from Munich took to basketball when he was 12, encouraged by Pablo Hermoso, the father of his mom, the former Elizabeth Santos Hermoso. It started his love affair with the sport.

“My grandfather took me to parks whenever he played,” he said of Pablo Hermoso, who saw action for Shell in the CYMCA league in the 1950s. “He was the one who influenced me to [play] basketball. I played whenever he played.”

Standhardinger never forgot his heritage—especially the basketball part of it—that he finally considered a two-year-old offer by Gilas coach Chot Reyes to play for the national team.

“I don’t know what the future brings, but right now, my heart is with my national team,” Standhardinger said. Volleyball-playing sisters Indeed, basketball has become a career for Christian, the eldest in a brood of three of Guenther Standhardinger and Elizabeth. His sisters, twins Kathrin and Kristin, are a year younger at 27 and play competitive volleyball.

Like Christian, who went to University of Nebraska and then University of Hawaii, the sisters took their volleyball acts to the United States before returning to Germany after graduation to play in the regional leagues.

Standhardinger applied for the 2014 NBA Rookie Draft but was not selected. (Like him, Jared Dillinger also played for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors).

The Filipino-German became available for the Gilas squad after his contract with SC Rasta Vechta in Germany’s ProA league expired. He was the league MVP last season.

His trump card has always been his work ethic and how he plays the game.

“Christian plays hard all the way,” Gilas assistant coach Jimmy Alapag says. “He’s exactly the kind of player this team needs, the type of player that fits the Gilas character.”

Standhardinger played his guts out in the Jones Cup, holding his own in a tough international field that saw the Philippines play against a European power in Lithuania, traditional Asian contenders like Iran, South Korea and Chinese Taipei and the experienced Canada 150 side that eventually won the championship.

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