Endrick: The Brazilian striker who scored the winner against England can walk in the footsteps of Romario and Ronaldo | Football News

Brazil's Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal with Vinicius Junior and teammates. (Reuters)

In the most hallowed of England grounds, a 17-year-old Brazilian striker arrived on the world stage. Endrick, the short and rapid striker with a mazy run, would score what turned out to be the winner in the 80th minute of the friendly against England.

The strike, in isolation, was not wondrous, a simple rebound off a Vinicius Junior shot that goalkeeper Jordan Pickford blocked away. But there were subtler details to be observed — his clever off-the- ball dart, drifting away from defenders, anticipation that Vinicius would pass him the ball, the sheer desire to get to the stray ball, the split-second decision making, and the smouldering physicality.

On first viewing, it seems as though the ball hit him rather than he hit the ball, but the slo-mo showed how he steered the ball goalward with his instep. There was pace on the ball. A heavier touch would have made it squirm off his boot. A softer touch would have resulted in the ball bobbling off his feet. But his touch had the perfect weight to reach the destination. Remarkable was his control of the body too. He could have over-run, but decelerated a bit so that he maintained perfect balance. The follow-through was minimal — it’s a gift of Brazilian forwards to control their leg-lift. “Like Romario,” a pundit whispered in the post-match show.

Brazil's Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal with Vinicius Junior Brazil’s Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal with Vinicius Junior (Reuters)

Endrick’s ears might be used to hearing this comparison. It’s more a similarity in physique, the two-footedness and the ruthlessness in front of goal. Endrick is more of a modern forward, who presses relentlessly and has an incredible work rate. He can be spectacular too. As his overhead kick for Palmeiras when he was only 15 testifies. That goal, though, was one of outrageous acrobatics. Four men were shielding him, he broke away from them, paused, backpedalled, and with an effortless flip of his body, suspended himself in the air and swished the ball towards goal over the four scrambling defenders and the goalkeeper. He seemingly had little space to execute the rare maneuvre but like great players, he creates his own space.

Story behind the goal

The goal won him instant admirers in Europe; Chelsea nearly signed him last year but the deal fell through at the last minute. But Real Madrid pounced in and acquired his signature for 52 millions pounds, wading off competition from, among other clubs, Barcelona and Liverpool. His father Douglas was in tears when Madrid brought him. Endrick’s story would be incomplete without the story of Douglas too.

Festive offer

When Douglas was young, he wanted to be a footballer, like the idols of his time – Careca, Zico and Socrates. But his father took his children to a suburb in Brasilia and abandoned them. “I lived in the orphanage for six months with my two sisters. My father left my mother. She didn’t have a house, she didn’t have a job. So we had to live in the orphanage,” he told MARCA. Still he played football and travelled to Sao Paulo and turned out for small clubs in the lower tiers.

“Sometimes after the game, the manager would say he doesn’t have the money to pay us. But we still used to play,” he recollected. Once he was thrown out of his lodge and spent several nights on the street, before a lady gave him shelter in a hostel. He then returned to his hometown Taguatinga, where he and his wife opened a cafe in an underground train station, before he got a job as a janitor.

Brazil's Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal Brazil’s Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal. (Reuters)

When Endrick was born, his father began to relive his dream of playing for his country. The first gift he brought him was a football. As soon as he turned four, Douglas knocked on the doors of his former clubmate Fabio, who had a small coaching centre in the backyard of his grocery store in Valparaiso De Goias, on the outskirts of Brasilia. Fabio admitted only boys above six and Endrick was small too. But he eventually relented to his friend’s requests.

But in some time, Fabio realised that he was nurturing a special talent. “It’s a cliche to say that he bested the older, bigger players in the club, but that was the reality. There was something about him and the ball. His control with the ball, even when he ran with it, and even at that age, was something special,” Fabio told O Globo.

Person behind the player

Type Brazilian wunderkinds on YouTube and one would find thousands of super-talented kids doing fancy tricks with the ball. Douglas himself had posted a dozen videos of his son, hoping that one club or the other would get impressed. But Fabio knew he was more special than most. “Because he had the drive and ambition. Something about him said that he would not fall apart. He is extremely grounded too,” Fabio explained.

Brazil's Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal Brazil’s Endrick celebrates scoring their first goal. (Reuters)

Endrick thanks his mother for instilling humility. He is a devout Evangelical Christian, who seldom skips church on Sundays. “Faith is an important part of my life, it was my mother who instilled spirituality in me,” he told MARCA. He was always sensitive to the struggles his parents had endured to develop his career. “They skipped several meals so that I could eat three meals a day,” he had said. So the hardships of others move him.

Once when he was boarding a flight, a shoe- shiner at the airport sought a selfie. A conversation ensued and he realised that he was in need of money to pay rent and support his family. He gave him all he had in his pocket, which was the equivalent of USD 500. Along with Spanish and English lessons, he learned sign language, because he says, “I want to connect with everyone. I want to speak to the mute or the people who don’t hear.”

Endrick is not yet a finished product, there have been hundreds of Brazilian wunderkinds that withered un-blossomed. Some failed to harness the potential, injuries wracked some others, lifestyle ruined others. But he has all the ingredients, in his feet, body and mind, to inherit the mantle of Romario and Ronaldo. Wembley was just the first of many stages where he would stamp his name in the future.

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