Orphans, Street Painters and Saviours: The Real Stories Behind The World’s Best Football Stars

Behind the World Cup's stars.

Kirsten Curtis |

The 2018 Fifa World Cup is all we’re talking about for the next few weeks. From supporting our favourite teams, to placing bets on who will win, football fever is running sky high. We’ve seen some surprising moments unfold on the pitch, from Messi having his penalty saved by a part-time filmmaker to current world champs, Germany, being beaten by Mexico.

We’re all waiting with baited breath to see which team will emerge victorious and take home the trophy. But glory or not, these players have already won at life – making huge charitable contributions and overcoming adversity.

Related: How This Pro Footballer Stays Motivated And Is Changing The Lives Of Young South Africans

1. Victor Moses – Nigeria

Good warm up game yesterday good preparation for the World Cup ???

A post shared by Victor Moses (@victormoses) on

Victor was born in Lagos, Nigeria. At 11, both his parents were killed during riots in Nigeria. Shortly after their death, family members paid for him to be sent to the UK as an asylum seeker. While playing in the Tandridge League For Cosmos 90 FC, he was scouted by Premier League outfit Crystal Palace. Since then, he’s become one of the best.

Related: Bucket Hats & Dresses: Is Nigeria’s Kit The Most Fashionable To Ever Come Out Of The FIFA World Cup?

2. Gabriel Jesus – Brazil

Born in Sao Paulo, the young Brazilian grew up playing street football. Four years ago, when then the Fifa World Cup was held in Brazil, he was captured painting the street he lived on. He had just started his footballing career with Palmeiras. Now he’s led Manchester City to their best EPL season in history and is one of the most sought after stars in Brazil’s national team. Jesus has gone from being the painter to the painted.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal

A post shared by Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) on

Much like Harry Potter in the Wizarding World, no child born today has not heard of the legend that is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese footballer rose to fame during his time at Manchester United, becoming one of the most lauded in the history of the game at Real Madrid.  In 2012, he paid for a nine year old diagnosed with cancer to receive specialist treatment. He’s also helped fund schools in Gaza and donated money to the hospital in Madeira, Portugal, that saved his mother’s life. His charitable work knows no bounds.

Related: This App Will Help You Get Cristiano Ronaldo’s Six-Pack Without the Gym

4. Mohamed Salah – Egypt

I wear these for 100 million Egyptians.

A post shared by Mohamed Salah (@mosalah) on

If ever you needed proof that determination pays off, you need look no further than Salah. The Egyptian footballer has impressed fans from the start, scoring 44 times in 51 games in his debut season at Liverpool. Born in the small farming village, Nagrig, Salah has become a role-model for the youth in his home village.

According to The Guardian, Salah would travel for nine hours every day, five days a week to travel with the Arab Contractors team in Cairo. Now, each month The Mohamed Salah Charity donates money to those in financial need. Salah has also paid for the construction of a religious school, an ambulance station and a charity food market. And when his family’s home was robbed a few years back, instead of pressing charges, Salah  reportedly gave the thief money to turn his life around. He also helped him find work.

Related: Africa’s Shot At The Trophy: Who Will Do Best In Russia

5. Lionel Messi – Argentina

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Messi began playing football when he was five years old. Even as a kid, his skill on the ball was exceptional, and he soon became a young star. But at the age of eleven he was diagnosed with with growth hormone deficiency. The cost of his treatment was expensive and his family couldn’t afford it. But after witnessing Messi’s talent, FC Barcelona signed him up and paid for his treatment. Since, the Argentinian has led The Catalans to six league titles. He’s also won the Ballon D’Or four times. (Also, he’s Lionel Messi.)

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