Ansu Fati: Maybe is not unique
Ansu Fati was born on October 31st 2002, in Bissau – the capital of Guinea Bissau, West Africa, in the family of Bori (a driver and ex-footballer) and Lurdes Fati (a housekeeper). A family with five children. Four years before Ansu was born, a civil war broke out in his home country followed by a military coup in 2003. All these events leave Guinea Bissau in ruins and widespread poverty. This leads to the decision of the family to leave Bissau and search for a better future. But this won’t be easy.
At first, the father Bori immigrated alone to Portugal. So he can save some money. There he tried to set up a career in lower league football teams but failed to. Bori read a story of the Andalusian town Marinaleda in Spain, a self-declared communist utopia located near Seville, that is offering work to immigrants. After begging for food on the streets of Marinaleda, he meets the mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo and soon finds a job as a driver.
Then he settles in Herrera, a nearby town. Bori is already imaging the future. His young sons Braima and Ansu who always kick a ball around finally will be able to train football. Fati found the home for his family. Yes, away from their old one. But their own, peaceful place. Since then when asked Bori Fati always says proudly that he is a “Sevilian” because the father will never forget the chance Spain gave him.
Amazed by Bori’s dedication the mayor Gordillo helps Fati’s family to move to Spain. Lurdes and the children Braima, Miguel and Djucu travel immediately. Of course there is also the six years old Anssumane, who can’t even imagine what the future holds for him. Wearing swimming shorts and in bare feet, aged six, Ansu Fati goes to play football at the local club. You probably ask how. He has no shoes, no equipment. Well, with a talent. The coaches can’t believe what they see. They notice it in the same second. It turns out that this boy is good at football. Very, very good.
For one year Ansu represents the local side Herrera. In 2010 he moves to the youth teams of Sevilla, where the boy spends two years. His speed and dribble are the reasons Ansu always is placed in attacking positions. Most often as a left winger.
In 2011 his brother, Braima, also a talented football player, moves to Barcelona’s academy – La Masia. In 2012 Ansu follows his steps. There they are. The sons of Bori. The same man who few years ago was begging for money on the streets. You never know how life can change. The truth is that before going to Barcelona, Ansu has an offer from Real Madrid. The two football giants are really competing for a 9 years old boy. Because both clubs know what potential the quick young player has. Well, Barca won the battle.
La Masia is one of the best football academies in the world. The youth system of Barcelona produced incredible players like Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Pep Guardiola and many more. Every youth team of Barcelona follows the philosophy of play of the main squad. The idea is creating one mentality from the bottom of the club to the top. And only the best out of all the children will reach this top. Proudly presenting the Catalan national character and the emblem of Barcelona next to one of the all-time greatest – Lionel Messi.
Probably only few of you know the fact that in La Masia Ansu Fati is a good friend and a teammate with Takefusa Kubo, known also as the Japanese Messi, who is a Real Madrid player, now on loan at RCD Mallorca. Often the main figures when it comes to assisting and scoring in their team at this time Fati and Kubo can’t even imagine that soon they will become rivals. Progressing through the club ranks the future looks bright for Ansu Fati. He is already a captain in his team, even though much more often the captain armband is given to defenders or midfielders or even goalkeepers.
But Fati impresses everybody. Until December 2015. In a game against Espanyol, Fati receives a horrific double leg break. He is transported to the hospital with a broken fibula and tibia on his right leg. Even though supported by his family and especially by his brother Braima, Fati is afraid. His career is questioned. What will happen to the dream of playing alongside Messi.
Ten months of recovery. Ten months of determination and hard-work. Fati is back and after every excellent game the winger makes in La Masia, he catches more and more the attention of fans and media. Barcelona hasn't produced a homegrown talent that has become a regular first-team player since Sergio Busquets — and that was more than a decade ago. There is a palpable desire, particularly in the Catalan press, to promote Barca's best youth academy players — arguably a greater pressure than at any of Europe's other great clubs.
The day comes. Ansu Fati is called up to train with the first team. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep. This is Barcelona. Bori and his wife cry out of happiness. Ansu had never even played for the B team before. On July 24th, he signs a contract with Barcelona until 2022. Fati steps on Camp Nou for a game against Real Betis and can’t believe his eyes, the passion, the fans, the atmosphere. At 16 years, 298 days the winger becomes the second youngest player ever to play for Barcelona. That night, Bori announces that he could “die happy”.
The week after, Ansu comes on as a sub at Osasuna. Six minutes later, he scores. His first goal. At 16 years, 304 days - the youngest goalscorer in Barcelona’s history, the third youngest to score a La Liga goal ever. And then on Saturday night September 14th against Valencia, 111 seconds into his first career start, he scores again, aged 16 years and 318 days. Later in the game Fati provides an assist for Frenkie de Jong, the multi-million signing from Ajax. What could be the feeling? Sometimes you don’t know how fast it could happen. One day you dream about it; the next day it happens.
On September 17th, Fati makes his Champions League debut in a 0:0 away draw against Borussia Dortmund, becoming the youngest player to feature for Barcelona in the competition at the age of 16 years and 321 days, breaking the previous record held by Bojan Krki. In the 60th minute the game is stopped. The fourth referee shows that a substitution will be made by Barca. The teammates of Fati call for him. He has to leave to pitch. But before. There on the touchline. He has to first believe his own eyes. Lionel Messi is waiting to come in. Fati, that’s not a dream.
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