As if Arsenal fans weren’t already besotted with Gabriel Paulista, he’s recently gone and opened up about his upbringing and made our hearts bleed. In an interview on Arsenal Player, the Brazilian spoke of his difficult childhood, how proud he is to have given his mother a better life, and discussed the path he had to take to reach the point he’s at now in his life.
It’s a truly heartwarming interview, and you can see how enduring such a difficult upbringing has made him the player he is today.
“[My mother] lived in a shack in a favela,” he told Arsenal Player.
“I talk about it because I am not ashamed of saying it, and today I am proud of being able to help her, to give her a better life, and me as well because I always dreamed about it. Thanks to God, things are coming true.
“I have seen many things on the outdoor neighbourhood pitches. I have seen death, I have witnessed robberies, I’ve been robbed in Sao Paulo. I’ve seen many things. I practically grew up with this. But thanks to God I took a path in my life because, for all that I have seen, for the bad things I have witnessed, my life could have been very different.
“But I was strong. I thought about my mother’s story and told myself that my mother couldn’t go through this anymore. She can’t, she must have a better life. So thanks to God I took a different path and am here today. I am fulfilling a dream I had since I was little, and thanks to God things are moving in the right direction.
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“Everybody knows about the corruption happening, and every day is a surprise. So I think Brazilians don’t like seeing that, but the kids have so many opportunities to play. Every neighbourhood has a football academy for the kids to follow this path, which is something I also want for the neighbourhood where I was born.
“I want to serve as a mirror to them, for them to see that I have gone through difficult times and managed to do it, and see that they can do it too. It’s not just me. If you work hard and respect the people above us, you can do it.”
Gabriel is clearly immensely grateful for all he’s achieved and been given, and it’s made him a better player. He is clearly very humble, and due to his childhood is unlikely to take anything in his current life for granted.
The 24-year-old looked an excellent signing when he arrived back in January, and was exactly what we needed. He has improved no end since then, and now looks on the verge of locking down a starting spot in the side.
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Gabriel is unquestionably a fan favourite, and has endeared himself to Gooners around the world. The majority of Arsenal supporters seem to want him starting ahead of Per Mertesacker, and may get their wish if he keeps performing the way he has been so far this season.