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Gabriel Jesus: From The Streets Of Brazil To World Cup Star

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Gabriel Jesus: From The Streets Of Brazil To World Cup Star

Four years ago Gabriel Jesus was a teenager in love with football, painting the streets of Sao Paulo in Brazil's famous green and yellow ahead of his country hosting the World Cup finals.

He'd done the same in 2010 and 2006, hoping to emulate Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and co. on the beautiful game's biggest stage.

Fast forward to 2018 and Manchester City's superstar striker is on the cusp of doing just that, the latest chapter in a journey of rapid progress on dirt prison pitches.

Jesus fell head over heels for football at five years old. His mother, Vera Lucia, tells stories of her son running out of the house before sunlight to play on the streets with his friends.

Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram
Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram

Like many young Brazilians in a country obsessed with football, Jesus started his education in the streets and then had to search far wider for a pitch to develop his skills.

Even by South American standards, his schoolboy stadium was quite extraordinary. Jesus played for Pequeninos, travelling to the edge of Sao Paulo state lines to play games inside the grounds of Romao Gomes military prison.

Young Jesus had to beg his first coach, Jose Mamede, for a chance to shine. It proved to be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Honing his technique on clay-dirt pitches, early footage of Jesus shows the hallmarks of the fantastic close control City fans are now enjoying on a weekly basis. He earned the nickname Tetinha, or 'easy-peasy', because difficult tricks and goals came so naturally.

After shining in local youth tournaments the secret was out, Jesus was a star in the making. Palmeiras came calling, a team with a reputation as a sleeping giant fighting to restore fallen pride.

Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram
Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram

His rise to prominence with Palmeiras coincided directly with an upturn in the team's fortunes. They won the Copa do Brasil in his first full season, but it was the 2015/16 campaign that will stay with both Jesus and the Verdao (Big Green) forever.

Jesus hit his stride and belied his teenage years on a fantastic goalscoring run, which included seven goals in five games during a crucial part of the season.That form had Europe's biggest teams fighting for his attention, with City swooping in August 2016 to complete a £27 million deal.

There was one major addition to the deal though, with Palmeiras insisting that their young sharpshooter stay until the end of the season. That decision proved to be a masterstroke, with Jesus delivering the club's first league title in more than two decades.

The image of Jesus hoisted on the shoulders of Palmeiras goalkeeper Fernando Prass' shoulders in his final game, crying in front of adoring fans, is one that perfectly encapsulates the mark he made on the club in a very short space of time.

Skip a few steps to 2018 and Jesus is now eyeing a landmark year to rival 2016. He's a key part of Pep Guardiola's revolution at City and weeks away from adding a Premier League winner's medal to his growing collection.

Image: PA
Image: PA

There's also a World Cup to savour, with the Selecao hoping to banish the ghosts of 2014's home humbling at the hands of Germany.

All this would not be possible without a key part of the Jesus story though, his adoring mother, Vera Lucia.

The driving force behind her son's success, Lucia raised four children single-handed. She worked tirelessly as a cleaner in Sao Paulo and her first three children did the same as soon as they were old enough.

Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram
Image: Gabriel Jesus/Instagram

He also has a huge tattoo of Lucia inked on his arm as a permanent reminder of her guidance.

"I owe everything to my mom during this period," Jesus told The Players Tribune. "Because a lot of kids in Brazil, when they're from humble means, they have to start working in order to help the family. They can't do football and school and work. So the dream dies for them at that point.

"But my mother, she believed in me. For whatever reason, she believed. She told me to keep going, no matter what I had to do."

With Lucia's love, a 20-year-old who has achieved so much already has plans to conquer the world.

SPORTbible's campaign More Than A Game tells the stories about football and its power beyond the pitch. Find out more here.

Topics: Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City, more than a game, Football News, Football, World Cup

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