was born and raised in the town of Macon, an hour north of Lyon.
From an early age, he wanted to be a soccer player. His brother Theo
told So Foot
he once found a notebook which was supposed to be for school but in which he had drawn pictures of him
answering questions from Canal-Plus.
As his sister Maud recalled to the New York Times
, Antoine spent many hours
kicking a ball at the family garage, pretending he was his hero, the Czech star Pavel Nedved
. Maud, who survived the Bataclan shooting in Paris on Nov. 13, served as his goalkeeper and
later encouraged him when French scouts looked the other way because of his lack of size.
Normally, Antoine would have gone through one of famous French soccer academies that are the envy
of the world. (MLS even has a partnership with the French federation to help clubs develop standards for their academy programs.)
Griezmann played for local clubs l’Entente Charney
Macon and UF Macon, but Lyon, Auxerre, Sochaux and St. Etienne -- among the most best producers of French talent -- all turned him down. Metz rejected him twice, the second time after first saying
they'd take him.
Griezmann was trying out with Montpellier when his break came. It was at a youth tournament organized by Paris St. Germain when Eric Olhats
, a French scout for
Real Sociedad who happened to visiting scouting buddies at the tournament on his way back home from a trip to Argentina, spotted him. Olhats handed Griezmann a note for him to read with his parents
when he returned home.
“At first, they thought it was a joke,” Griezmann told the
, "but one call was enough."
Real Sociedad wanted him to move to Spain. Griezmann didn't know any Spanish, so he moved to Bayonne, on the other side of the border, where he
enrolled in school, and commuted back and forth each day to Real Sociedad's cantera. He was only 14.
“There were nights when I cried and it was hard to sleep,” he told the
Guardian. “At that age, you don’t realize what it means to leave home.”
But Griezmann adjusted and played four years in the Real Sociedad youth program before debuting
with the first team, then in the second division, at the age of 18. After his first season, Real Sociedad was promoted to La Liga, where he played four more seasons before moving to Atletico Madrid in
2014. He scored 44 goals in two seasons for Atletico, only two less than he had in five seasons with Real Sociedad.
Griezmann played for France at the 2011 Under-20 World Cup but his
international career quickly stalled when the French federation banned him for a year for breaking curfew with four other players on the U-21 national team and heading to a Paris nightclub.
The suspension prevented him from playing for France in 2014 World Cup qualifying, and it wasn't until March 2014 that he debuted for the Bleus.
Griezmann, who gets his German name
from his father's Alsatian roots, scored both goals on Thursday to give France a 2-0 win over Germany that moved it into Sunday's Euro 2016 final against Portugal -- where his grandfather played for
Pacos de Ferreira.