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Gabriel Jesus' Speedy Ascent to Star Status Makes Him a Role Model in Home Neighborhood

05/21/2018 - 12h06

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CAMILA MATTOSO
LUIZ COSENZO

On the eve of the 2014 World Cup, Tetinha, who was 17 years old at the time, went knocking from door to door in Jardim Peri, located in São Paulo's northern district, asking for money so he could paint the neighborhood's streets green and yellow. Tetinha is now known the world over as Gabriel Jesus, and when the 2018 World Cup begins in Russia, he will be on the pitch wearing Brazil's number 9 jersey.

Gabriel Jesus, who turned 21 on April 3rd - and is still referred to as "Tetinha" by his closest friends - will be the youngest player to start for the Brazilian national team at a World Cup opening match since 1958, when José João Altafini, known as "Mazzola", who was just 19 at the time, was selected by coach Vicente Feola to start in Brazil's opening match against Austria.

"He brought all the kids together and asked residents in the neighborhood for money. We painted several Brazil flags and we also hung flags in the streets," recalled Higor Braga, 19, one of the soccer star's three friends who moved to England with him to help him adapt when he arrived at Manchester City, which is his current club.

REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
A woman is seen in the window of her house painted with the image of Brazil's soccer player Gabriel Jesus in the neighbourhood he lived in during his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil May16, 2018
A woman is seen in the window of her house painted with the image of Brazil's soccer player Gabriel Jesus in the neighbourhood he lived in during his childhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil May16, 2018

Gabriel Jesus arrived in Jardim Peri back in 2001. His mother, Vera Lucia, took care of him and his three siblings: Caíque, Felipe and Emanuelle. Their father left them before Gabriel Jesus was born.

Though he may have moved to Europe to play soccer, Gabriel Jesus is still a role model for the boys in Jardim Peri. Images of the soccer star can be seen in the form of street art in the neighborhood he once lived in.

Translated by THOMAS MATHEWSON

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