Editor’s Note: We don’t have a national Dia del Niño in the U.S. — and your mom would probably argue that every day is Dia del Niño so you don’t need a special day, you brat. But it’s celebrated all over Latin America, and today is Dia del Niño in Mexico. Here’s our post in honor of the chirren.
Once upon a time, they were lanky and bucktoothed and awkward. In those days they shared their desire for glorious matches and worldwide fame with kids just like them, lanky and awkward. But, very soon, this happy few left their peers behind and went on to become the football monsters we now stare at in disbelief. This is a Dia del Niño Tribute to the early days of the prodigies of today.
This is a classic. The grainy video is really short. It shows a plump kid playing a bit of keepy uppy. Just fifteen seconds or so. Even though there are no flashy tricks, one glimpses the uncanny command Diego Armando, fifth son of Diego Maradona and Dalma Salvadora Franco, has over the ball and over his body. There is something in his stance, in his stocky gracefulness that will be with him throughout his playing career.
Ronaldinho played with Porto Alegre. He was a mess of hair and two protruding teeth that made him look like he was not quite sure were he was. Here, preface by Eric Cantona, is his display of primal skill.
Perhaps the embodiment of the child prodigy played once for Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario. After being offered that Barcelona would take care of the treatment for his human growth hormone deficiency, Lionel is now the highest priced player in everyone’s fantasy football league.
This is young Carlos Tévez, from Fuerte Apache. His trademark shark’s smile is there already.
Cuauhtémoc Blanco, practicing his dribbling gesture early on.
And who can forget El Pibe. He probably started to style that afro before he could walk:
No one said becoming a young man was easy. It is almost painful in Angel Di Maria’s case.