Richarlison’s journey, from growing up in the underprivileged Brazilian city of Nova Venencia to becoming one of the most exciting young talents the Premier League, has been remarkable. Read below to find out more about our new number 30…
Emerging from strife
Richarlison’s fierce determination to extract the most out of his precocious talent was borne out of a tough childhood environment.
Growing up in the underprivileged area of Vila Rúbia in his home city of Nova Venencia, Brazil, he witnessed many of his contemporaries turn to crime rather than football.
“A lot of my friends got lost on drugs and most of them are in prison. I have a lot to be thankful for not going down that path,” Richarlison said.
“I remember when I was growing up in Brazil, a guy once pointed a gun at my face because he thought I was a drug dealer trying to steal his distribution point.
“That sort of thing was natural in my life so I was not scared at all. It was a pretty rough area: I saw drugs in front of me every day, and gunshots as well.”
Richarlison, however, explains “he had a conscience” and “could never" lead such a life. And for the gifted youngster, football offered an escape route.
“It was all I could think about,” he said. “And my coaches were from the police. As they were aware of where I was from, they were always giving me advice in order to prevent me going on that bad path.
“Every Monday I would run 9km to the football school and train, whether it was the hot sun or pouring rain. I just didn’t want to do anything else.”
A proud Brazilian, samba dancing and singing have always been big parts of Richarlison’s life.
And while he admitted his move to Watford from Fluminense last summer represented a dramatic culture change, there was never any question of him losing touch with his Brazilian roots.
He quickly became close friends with Chelsea duo David Luiz and Willian, which he explains helped him acclimatise to life in England.
"They're very playful, they sing and dance, and this helps a lot with the adaptation,” he said an interview in October 2017. “We learn English together.
“We have a barbecue, play video games, and we cannot live without samba!”
As an emerging young footballer in Brazil, Richarlison admits he was one of many who would try to mimic the flamboyance of Selecao and Paris St Germain superstar Neymar.
And this didn’t stop at the former Barcelona’s forward's exploits on the pitch. “I even styled my hair in a mohawk and used hair-straightening product!” Richarlison revealed.
So when England played Brazil in a friendly at last November and Neymar asked Richarlison if he fancied a night out in London afterwards, you would have thought he would have jumped at the chance.
For the ultra-professional 21-year-old, though, ensuring he was ideally prepared for Watford’s Premier League clash against West Ham five days later dictated a rain-check was in order.
“After the game he called me and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends on a night out," Richarlison explained. "It was an amazing opportunity. But I'd played on the Saturday and needed to rest. I had training the next day as well, so I decided to stay at home.”
And it was the right choice, as Richarlison netted in a 2-0 Watford win over the Hammers.
After his parents separated when Richarlison was young, he initially moved in with his dad “because I knew my mum wouldn’t take me to football”.
His father relocated for work, however, and Richarlison moved into his mother’s house at the age of 10.
He continued playing football but - with his mum struggling to supply for a family of six on a cleaning wage - Richarlison soon entered the world of work to help them get by.
“I worked at a car wash, I sold ice creams,” he revealed. “We had flavours like condensed milk, grape, chocolate - that kind of thing. It was 20p per ice cream.
“I also made chocolate truffles and I worked with my grandfather. Then, when I was living with my aunt, I also sold homemade chocolate.
“They cost more - 25p! Half of the money was mine, and I used to put it in a piggy bank which I opened at the end of the year.”
Back in May, Richarlison hosted a charity football match in his home city of Nova Venécia.
The game at Zenor Pedrosa Rocha Stadium was attended by 3,000 supporters and saw more than three tonnes of food donated for underprivileged local residents.
Family members and friends – including Benfica striker Daniel dos Anjos - took part in the match, as Richarlison bagged a brace in a 3-3 draw. His father, Antônio Andrade, scored the other goal and also provided an assist for his son!
Speaking after the match, Richarlison said: “I'm very happy to be able to do a little bit for my town. These are my roots, where I was born and where I came to play football. It's the least I could do for my people. I hope you can repeat this party every year from now on. I want to thank everyone who attended and supported this idea.”
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