Joe found this wonderful letter that Uruguay football player Edinson Cavani wrote to his younger self, it is worth a read.
Dear nine-year-old Edinson,
I am writing these lines to the boy that everyone in the neighborhood calls “Pelado”.
When you were a baby you did not have too much hair. And it grew to you very little by little. A shit, but there was not much you could do about it. So, thanks to the creativity of your family, you were always “Pelado”.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that in the next 20 years, football will change your life in many ways. Some very good, others not so much. But football is going to help you get rid of that tedious nickname.
There is a player named Gabriel Batistuta. You still do not know, because the only program you have the patience to sit and watch on TV is called Tom & Jerry. Your eldest brother, Nando, will be the first to be inspired by Batistuta. He will start to refuse to go to the hairdresser. And to use the conditioner for your mother’s hair. And little by little, it will begin to look like the magnificent Batigol every time. When you are running on a playground, with your long hair pulled back and held by a rubber band, it will be the best you have seen.
The time will come when it will be you who will tell your mother: “No more haircuts.”
You live your life outside, with a ball in your feet. In the South American way. You do not know anything else. And also, what is there to do inside? Nothing funny. Nothing interesting. There is no PlayStation. There is no big TV. You do not even have to take a hot shower. There is no heating either. In winter, your heating system will be four blankets. When you need to take a bath, you will have a thermos with water that you will heat in the kitchen to kerosene. It is very important to understand how to combine cold and hot water. Standing in the bathtub, you will learn to be an alchemist.
And yet, this will be a luxury for you. Or do not you remember your first house? The one that did not have a bathroom. That house where every time you had to relieve yourself, you had no choice but to walk outside and go to the small shed!
Can you let me tell you a secret? When I remember that image now, I do not feel bad at all. For some reason, it fills me with energy. It gives me courage. It is a beautiful memory.
Do not worry about what you have in the house. You have to keep living your life in the sun, Pelado.
Also, what is the reason for having soccer posters stuck on the wall? Every two or three years, when you change jobs or your family can not pay the rent, you will have to move to another place. But do you know what is best? That in every new house, no matter where it is located, you will always have a little field outside. And there will also be a ball. There is no owner in the world that will be able to remove that, I guarantee it.
What matters most in your life at this moment, if I remember correctly, is the Ice Cream Goal.
The Ice Cream Goal is something magical. I need to talk to someone from PSG about the Ice Cream Goal. It’s great. It is pure motivation. The idea was for the organizers of the Salto youth championship. How do you get motivated to a bunch of six-year-old gurises no matter how the game goes?
Putting the rule that the boy who makes the last goal of the game takes an ice cream.
The result could be 8-1, but it did not matter. It was a race against time. Mark the last goal of the game. And the feeling when listening to the technician who blew the whistle to mark the end, when you had put the Ice Cream Goal … incredible! An immense joy. Will it be chocolate? Are you going to get one of those from Mickey Mouse? Whatever it is, throughout that day, you will be the king.
Of course you’re not a kid from the capital, Pelado. The boys of Montevideo live in a different world. A world that you do not even know exists. A world of Adidas boots, car trips and green grass. In Salto, everything is different. For some reason, everyone wants to play barefoot. Some children start the matches with shoes, but then, at halftime, all the booties are stacked on one side and everyone will be running barefoot. If I close my eyes right now, I can still feel the mud on the soles of my feet. I can still feel my heart beating, chasing the ball, dreaming of ice cream.
You will carry these feelings with you throughout your life, because you are South American. From Uruguay. Of Salto. You live football in a different way.
The blessing and the curse for the Uruguayans is that we can never relax. It is the history of our football, it is the history of our country. When we put on the blue, we feel the pride of our history.
We have to go for all, give, give, give. And there we go.
What are your dreams, Pelado?
I do not even remember them exactly. Time transformed them into diffuse memories.
Is your dream to play in Montevideo, like Nando? You’ll get it, and when you do, you’ll feel like you’re playing the Champions League.
Is your dream to play in Europe? You will also get it, and you will make enough money to change the life of your family.
Is your dream to play for Uruguay? You will do it, and you will have experiences that will make you cry with joy and also with sadness.
Is your dream to play a World Cup? (I’m not going to ruin the surprise, I’ll just tell you that 2010 will be El Loco).
Your dream is to have a lot of money, drive nice cars and sleep in elegant hotels? Well, Pelado, you’ll have all those things.
But I have to tell you something. They will not necessarily make you happy.
What you have now, with 9 years old, is something that I miss very much now.
You do not have a hot shower. You do not have a weight in your pocket. You do not even have good hair. But you have something else. Something that has no price. You have your freedom.
As a child, you live your life with an intensity and a passion that will be impossible as an adult. We try to hold on to that feeling when we grow up, but it starts to go away. It slips through our hands. There are too many responsibilities. Too much pressure. Too much life lived in.
Do you know what life is like now, at 31 years of age?
You go from a hotel to a bus and from there to a training camp. After the training camp to a bus and an airplane. From the plane you go to another bus. From that bus you go to a stadium.
In many aspects, you are living in a dream. But in many others, you are also a prisoner of that dream. You can not go outside and feel the sun. You can not take off the booties and play on the ground. Things will happen that will make your life complicated. It is unavoidable.
When you are a child, you have this feeling that the most successful person is the one who has the most things.
When you grow up, you realize that the most successful person is the one who has the wisdom to live life.
When you achieve it in professional soccer, you will have everything you can dream of. And for this you will have to be extremely grateful. But I have to be honest with you, Pelado. There is only one place where you can have that total freedom. And it lasts 90 minutes, if you’re lucky.
When you put on your boots, no matter if you’re playing in the Salto field, in the green grass of Napoli or in front of millions of people in a World Cup … I want to remind you of your father’s words.
What does it always tell you, every time you go to play a game?
I know that you know it.
He says: “The moment you cross the line of lime and enter the field, it’s just football. Nothing that happens outside that line will help you with what goes on inside. Nothing else exists. “
If you listen to those words and really believe in the spirit of what they say, then, even if the pressure is immense, even if you are playing in front of millions of people … you will go out on the court and you will feel like you are playing barefoot.
You will feel the mud stuck on the soles of your feet.
You will feel your heart beating and you will run looking for the ball, as if it were the biggest trophy in the world. As if you were playing for ice cream.
Yesterdays game was a very big deal for the people of Uruguay. Cavani scored both goals for Uruguay, beating Portugal and advancing to the final 8. Guess he got his ice cream.