Roberto Firmino’s first game for Clube de Regatas Brasil as a shy 14-year-old boy showed just a glimpse of what was to come.
It was a sweltering day and the venue was a field in the small town of Messiah with a handful of locals watching from the sidelines.
It was a tight game and the score line was well balanced until Firmino had a chance to win in the last seconds. After being eliminated from the game, he was replaced when his team won a dangerous free kick.
Roberto Firmino’s climb to the top of world football started at the age of 14 in Clube de Regatas Brasil
The Brazilian is now both a Premier League and Champions League winner with Liverpool
“Can I take it?” He asked manager Victor Menelau, who replied, “Go for it.” The now Liverpool striker shot the ball into the back of the net with ease, surprising everyone but himself.
It was then that his friendship with Victor began, which he is still close to today. “I didn’t know what to expect from Roberto at the time,” he says Sports email.
“It was his first game and he played with a younger group [Firmino was born in 1991 and Victor in 1992]but he was humble to accept that. Before taking the free kick, he asked me quietly and I said yes.
“It was then that I knew I could trust him to win. The only problem was that he hugged everyone [laughs] because he was so shy. ‘
Firmino is now a Premier League winner after another wonderful season under Jurgen Klopp at Anfield and has redefined the role of a striker. He is not a season man with 30 goals, but his influence on Liverpool’s front three is invaluable.
Clearly (circled) Firmino had the talent to succeed as a young player growing up
Firmino (circled) was so versatile and could play on almost any position on the field
Without the Brazilian pulling the strings, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane would not be able to blossom like her. Firmino’s selflessness is just as important as their desire to score goals.
THE SUCCESS OF FIRMINO ON LIVERPOOL
Signed for £ 29 million from Hoffenheim in June 2015
Premier League 19/20
Champions League 18/19
UEFA Super Cup 2019
FIFA Club World Cup 2019
Copa America 2019
But Anfield’s bright lights haven’t always been commonplace in Firmino’s life. Conditions were not ideal for football in the state of Alagoas, northeastern Brazil, where he was born.
Almost every time they were forced to play on muddy pitches instead of grass, and despite playing for one of the major clubs in the state, they barely knew what an 11-on-one match was.
The city of Maceio is where Firmino calls home. Known as the Caribbean of Brazil with its expansive beaches, there is a large gap between the rich and the poor, but not on the same scale as larger cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Firmino grew up in one of the city’s tough neighborhoods with high violent crime rates and where just under 20 percent of all residents live in favelas or similar areas.
The temperature was also an issue with mid-day matches taking place in blazing Brazilian heat. Firmino and his friends played at temperatures above 33 degrees. His former manager says there was ‘one sun for each person’, the conditions were so overwhelming.
During his time at CRB, Firmino trained three days a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The sessions always took place in the afternoon and after that, every weekend competitions or tournaments were central.
After leaving Brazil, Firmino moved to Europe and signed with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim
He stood out to Liverpool and has become a critical part of Jurgen Klopp’s attack
“We had a lot of great players, but we didn’t have the conditions to help them achieve their dreams of becoming a professional footballer,” CRB coach Jean Carlos explains.
“A man like Firmino, who was extremely talented, did not receive any money from the club. There was help with the transportation and that was it. If there was a game in any other state, it was up to the coaching staff and family members to help him and other boys. ‘
Today, CRB has vastly improved the training facilities for their young stars in the hope that they can develop another Firmino in the future. Coaches Jean Carlos and Guilherme Farias were responsible for making the Liverpool star above his age.
At 16 and 17, Firmino took on guys who were 20 but still arguably the best player on the field. It came as no surprise to Jean Carlos when Firmino became Premier League champion or a star for the Brazilian national team.
“I can’t remember his voice to tell the truth. I could barely hear it. But I can’t forget how many great games he had with us, ”says Carlos.
“There was one, against Agremiacao Sportiva Arapiraquense, that we thought we would lose and he scored a goal from midfield. Just kicked it and it went into the net.
“I was having trouble figuring out where to put it because we had such a great team. However, I knew he had to play. ‘
Firmino is also invaluable to the Brazilian national team, which won Copa America last year
The 28-year-old has scored 13 goals and 44 games for the Selecao since his debut
The only surprise that accompanied Firmino’s ascent to the top was his position. CRB teammate Benicio Mendes remembers that the boy who carried a Corinthians bag on his arm for training could play almost anywhere.
“I played as a central defender and in one game my defending partner got a red card and Roberto was chosen to play next to me,” said Mendes.
“He’s done it many times. Once, at an important game, we lost our goalkeeper and he was the chosen one. Roberto saved us in these situations. ‘
At CRB, coach Guilherme Farias was responsible for testing him and saw that Firmino could be a great midfielder because of the way he hit the ball and his ability to score goals from distance.
Farias also knew that Firmino was versatile. Victor Menelau even draws a comparison with CRB’s Firmino and the player that Liverpool has today.
Guilherme always changed his attitude. Roberto dribbled a lot and had a great vision of the game, ”says Menelau.
“In that first game he started as a midfielder, but I saw him playing as a defender. There was a game where he dribbled past everyone and scored. Roberto was used to destroying teams in matches and, as usual, went home and thought about the next opportunity to play football.
“Now he is one of the best strikers in the world and he assists assists, has a great positioning. Everything we used to see ‘.
Piu, another former Firmino’s teammate at CRB, says it was a surprise to see him blossom as a striker.
“He was the best player on our team, that’s a fact. But to tell the truth, I always imagine him as a player like (Paul) Pogba, Paulinho or (Zinedine) Zidane, because of the quality of his moves and passes. We weren’t very close, but I admire him for what he’s accomplished. ‘
Firmino was on the Liverpool team that defeated Tottenham in last season’s Champions League final
Firmino is part of a deadly attack with Mohamed Salah (center) and Sadio Mane (left)
Firmino is part of a great generation of players born in Alagoas who had to defeat poverty and terrible conditions just to play football. Born in Trapiche da Barra, he played whenever and wherever he could.
Trapiche da Barra is close to the Rei Pele stadium, which counts 20,000 people and is home to the local teams Clube de Regatas Brasil and Centro Sportivo Alagoano. Firmino could hear the sounds of the stadium when he went to sleep at night.
His neighborhood is a long way from the luxurious part of Merseyside where he now lives with his family. It is close to favelas and a polluted lake with a poor residential complex at its core.
Firmino’s father, Jose Cordeiro, sold beer and water to the locals on his bicycle while trying to take care of his son, his daughter Roberta Marcella and Firmino’s mother Mariana Cicera.
His stadiums were the beach, the streets, his schools and youth clubs. It is clear to see how he plays that Firmino’s personality has not changed. Everyone you speak to from childhood will say the same thing: very shy, very quiet and very helpful.
In Alagoas, everyone now knows who Firmino is. Ari Santiago, one of his childhood mentors, wants to launch a championship to his name hoping they can give someone else a chance to make it.
“I hope it gives these guys who live in poverty to poverty today a chance.
Roberto was one of them and now he is helping his family and friends. We want to do this for other children, as we did for him.
“If he smiles today, I can still remember the boy who reached out to me at school and asked for the ball so he could play with his friends.”