Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Nani & David Silva: When they were children
by Mike Woitalla, June 26th, 2012 2:54AM
Subscribe to Youth Soccer Insider

MOST READ
TAGS:  european championship, portugal, spain, youth boys

MOST COMMENTED

By Mike Woitalla

Here are a few more glimpses into the childhoods of players starring at the 2012 European Championship:

From shantytown to millionaire
Nani (Portugal). When he played pickup games in Santa Filomena, a shantytown northwest of Lisbon, Nani picked weaker players for his team so he would see more of the ball.

The five-a-side games, winning team stays on, were played on a concrete field near his home. But getting to training with his first club, Real Massama, required a 3-mile walk along railroad tracks. If running late, he would hop on the train and evade the ticket collector.

Nani was born Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha in Cape Verde, an African island nation that was a Portuguese colony until 1975. His family moved to Portugal when he was a small boy, but his father went to Cape Verde on vacation when Nani was 7 and never came back. His mother left for the Netherlands when he was 12, by which time Nani, the youngest of 10 children, was already being raised by an aunt while his older brothers filled his father’s role.

“We would steal fruit and other stuff to eat,” Nani said. “I went on some bad paths, but I would always return to the right one.”

The youth association Espaco Jovem and Real Massama, which also provided him meals, helped keep Nani out of trouble.

"It was difficult to live [in Santa Filomena], always problems with the police and shootings,” Nani said. “There was violence. There was a big gang of us, close friends, who used to go around together when we were young. Now some of those guys are in prison. Soccer was the only way to get out."

He joined Portuguese power Sporting at age 16 and debuted for its first team at age 18 in 2005 and for Portugal a year later. In 2007 he moved to Manchester United on a $39 million transfer.

Pride of the Canary Islands
David Silva (Spain).
Asked how his soccer career started, Silva recalled following his father to games and practices and playing on the sidelines. “And playing in the streets with the other children of Arguineguin,” he said. “We never lacked for a ball.”

But his grandmother, Antonia, remembers further back, when 4-year-old David would kick oranges and potatoes around the yard -- until she got tired of the mess and made him a ball out of cloth.

Silva’s father, Fernando, served as a policeman and played ball for a semipro team that at one time included a young Carlos Valeron, who went on to play 46 times for Spain, including at two Euros and the 2002 World Cup.

That Silva followed in Valeron’s footsteps means that Arguineguin, a fishing village of 7,000 on the Canary Islands, has produced two of Spain’s most skillful playmakers of the last decade.

At age 14, Silva was invited to try out for Real Madrid and made the 1,100-mile journey to the Spanish capital only to be rejected because of his lack of size. He never grew past 5-foot-7, but months after the Real rejection, Silva moved into Valencia’s residency program.

Although his mother, Eva, was of Japanese descent, Silva was nicknamed “El Chino.” His parents followed him to Valencia, where his father was employed as a stadium security guard. Silva won the Bronze Ball at the 2003 U-17 World Cup at which Spain finished runner-up. After loan spells with second division Eibar and Celta Vigo, Silva earned a starting spot with Valencia at age 20. In 2010, he joined Manchester City, which he helped to last season’s EPL title with 17 assists.

Further reading -- Euro 2012 Stars: When they were children:
Cristiano Ronaldo & Welbeck
Schweinsteiger, Iniesta & Sheva



1 comment
  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: June 26, 2012 at 8:50 p.m.
    I hear a lot of Latin Americans and Spaniards calling a person who has "Asian eyes" "el chino" or "la china". It seems to be done out of pure convenience, lack of knowledge, or dismissive ignorance. The exception is Brazil, of course, which is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan itself. They tell me that in Brazil people who have "Asian eyes" are called "el japonés" or "la japonesa". So maybe David Silva will consider ending his soccer career in Brazil? He certainly has the talent for it.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Youth Soccer Insider
Police side with kids in pickup game dispute    
My favorite youth soccer story of the spring comes from Birmingham, Alabama, where police officers responded ...
U.S. girls to prep for U-17 World Cup against Swiss U-19s    
The U.S. U-17 girls national team, which is preparing for the U-17 Women's World Cup in ...
The Female Athlete Triad -- Be on the Lookout    
I was recently with a friend watching his daughter in a NorCal Premier State Cup soccer ...
Ref Watch: Players Taking Dives    
I started refereeing in 1978 and for every game that I officiated in the United States ...
Christian Pulisic near another milestone    
Christian Pulisic, the 17-year-old Pennsylvania kid who has already played nine Bundesliga games, is one game ...
U.S. Soccer goes all out to prep youth teams    
This month's U.S. youth national trips include the U-17 boys going to India while the U-20 ...
Parental influence done right -- supportive but not overbearing    
For better or worse (almost always for the better) there will be parental influence in coaching ...
Portuguese connection inspires national boys player of the year Mendes    
Lucas Mendes stands 5-foot-5 -- and is one of the top 18-year-old players in the USA. ...
Galaxy provides school in quest to produce an American Messi    
"This could change how we develop players in this country. And the hope is a Lionel ...
The young athlete is not a small professional    
It's totally understandable to want your injured son or daughter to be healed and back playing ...
>> Youth Soccer Insider Archives