“As a child, I always wanted to drink these, but we never had the money,” Casemiro said with his eyes filled with tears. “It didn’t cost much, around 20 cents, but my mom would always call me back because we didn’t have the money to buy some.”
4 years ago, Casemiro opened up about a story from his childhood when he could only look with hope-filled eyes at the yoghurts on display in his neighbourhood grocery store in São Paulo. Most footballers arriving from South America often come from impoverished backgrounds but Casemiro’s tale is not one to ‘be told by an idiot’. O Tanque was born with a purpose.
Like many other footballers coming from many impoverished sections of South America, Casemiro faced a similar challenging childhood. The vicinity of Sao Jose Dos Campos where Casemiro grew up is one of the most underprivileged areas in Brazil, an infamous place known for its poverty-stricken families, exploited working class and child labour, but miraculously a socially challenged Casemiro didn’t bow himself to the evils prevailing in that area.
In 2013, when the midfielder joined Real Madrid with an indomitable dream, Spanish news outlet MARCA were quick to heap praise on the then 20-year-old coming with a glowing reputation of leadership, resiliency and undying mentality. He was termed a ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ taking into account his family instability and an ‘underrated’ upheaval of a young boy renowned for his ways to brave tough times both in life and on the pitch.
At age five, the little ‘hero’ had to see his father angrily abandon the family of three children and their mother, and never return. The five-year-old grew up in the direst of situations, which made his mother, Venancio Magda de Maria Casemiro, his ‘Idolo.’ Maria Casemiro fought tooth and nail against society, poverty as well as the social evils prevailing in the streets of Sau Paolo — she remained undefeated in her quest to raise her children with a spiritual influence and emboldened them with the words - “Man can be destroyed but never defeated.”
“My mother was always with me. She always supported me, and thanks to God, I can help my family. I’m happy I had her by my side when I needed her the most.”
“With the first money I earned I bought my mother a house. I remember it well. She thought I only played football to enjoy myself but I had it very clear that I wanted to help her” said an emotional Casemiro who at a tender age understood what was about to come and believed in “The sun rises only after the darkest hour.”
Soon after, Casemiro left the slums of Sau Paolo and made his way into the youth ranks of the city-based club. A jubilant life followed. “I had a room, food, air conditioning and a TV” — reminisced the young Brazilian as he stepped foot on Spanish soil. However, at age 14, Hepatitis came haunting but only for a brief spell, our hero of the story recovered quickly and ultimately made his debut for Sau Paolo in 2010. Accolade followed — his colossal form earned Casemiro a place in the Brazil U-20 side with whom he won the South American Championship alongside the likes of Neymar and Lucas.
After joining Real Madrid B on loan in late January 2013, Casemiro got the chance to make his debut on 20th April 2013. About two months later, on 2nd June, he scored his first goal with Castilla, he impressed the Madrid coaching department so much so that eight days later, Real Madrid turned his loan deal into a permanent transfer from Sau Paolo.
Thus, Casemiro entered the golden period of his life. Manager Benitez used him as a reserve but under maestro Zinedine Zidane he transformed into a regular starter, formed arguably the best midfield trio, sometimes referred to as ‘The Holy Trinity’ or ‘The Bermuda Triangle’ by Ancelotti, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric and then went onto win silverware only a few could imagine to even dream.
“Casemiro’s smile now lights up the sky and brings warmth to everyone around him. His happiness is merited. His childhood is filled with painful memories,” writes Kiyan Sobhani in his Casemiro’s persistence during a difficult childhood is a lesson for all of us
Casemiro’s story is an inspiration, and a story of how unswayed determination and undying mentality can brave the direst of circumstances, even if the odds are against you.
The dream now lives on and will be forever showcased in The Theatre of Dreams.
Long Live Casemiro, Long Live Manchester United!