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The most inspiring stories of West African footballers who grew up poor

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West African footballers who grew up poor
The most inspiring stories of West African footballers who grew up poor. Photo/ Sport News Africa.
  • Football is one area that has changed the lives of so many people around the world
  • The majority of West African footballers had to struggle with poverty while still young before making it in the football world
  • Now they live in mansions and drive expensive cars 

It’s fair to say that footballers live a luxurious life owning mansions and driving fancy cars. However, that has not always been the case for them, especially West African footballers who grew up poor.

For them, they had to struggle with poverty while still young before making it in the football world. From lacking food to playing barefooted, these footballers faced it rough growing up. But now their stories inspire everyone, including you and me.

In that spirit, let’s take a look at three famous West African footballers who grew up poor.

1. Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane

Sadio Mane is famous for being one of the West African footballers who grew up poor. Photo/ Get French Football News.

Every football fan will agree with me when I say Sadio Mane is one of the nicest footballers we have ever seen. From building schools and hospitals to supporting many poor families back in his village, the Senegalese forward has won the hearts of many in the football world. And why is Mane doing all these? The answer is simple, it’s because he once lacked and knows how it feels being poor.

Mane grew up in Bambali, a small town in the Sédhiou district of Senegal. And because of his poor background, his parents couldn’t afford to educate him, so he didn’t go to school with other kids his age. However, one thing that he was good at since his childhood was playing football. Unfortunately for him, his father didn’t want him to play football at all – he wanted Mane to focus on religion.

Mane was, however, noticed by a French scout who took him to France. Fast forward a few years later, the Senegal international is making a name for himself in the Premier League with Sunderland. He then gets signed with Liverpool and the rest as they say is history. As of 2024, he is not only one of the most successful African footballers but also among the richest athletes in the world.

2. Victor Moses

Yes, Victor Moses grew up in London, but only those who don’t know his story will think that he had a smooth childhood in the big city. Well, I wouldn’t blame you because you can’t imagine he had an awful childhood by looking at his fresh skin and friendly smile.

Victor Moses

Victor Moses is one of the West African footballers who grew up poor. Photo/

Let’s get started with his story. Victor Moses was born on 12 December in 1990, in Lagos, Nigeria. When he was eleven years old, his parents were killed in religious riots in Kaduna and he had to seek asylum in the United Kingdom after being hidden by friends for a few weeks.

Instead of things getting better, they only got worse for the little boy who had to struggle and even played barefooted in England before being put in a foster home.

Luck came his way when he was scouted by Crystal Palace and signed to their academy. After turning pro, he played for Wigan Athletic before his move to Chelsea where his life changed completely. One of the famous West African footballers who grew up poor, Victor Moses’ net worth is now estimated to be over $20 million. He is currently playing for Spartak Moscow.

3. Odion Ighalo 

Just like many other West African footballers who have achieved success in their careers, Odion Ighalo grew up poor.

Ighalo was raised in a family that had financial challenges. According to various sources, his mother used to sell sachet water in the streets of Lagos, Nigeria to help make ends meet for the family. Even though the former Manchester United man showed potential of becoming a top player, his father did not want him to become a footballer, just like Mane.

Odion Ighalo

Odion Ighalo. Photo/ Sport News Africa.

But Ighalo’s mother was there for him and despite the hard conditions at home, she supported her son’s dreams of playing football professionally by giving him money to buy boots and go to matches. Fast forward to 2024, Ighalo is one of the most respected Nigeria footballers and has made a fortune through playing football over the years. And since he understands what it means by lacking, he regularly gives back to the society.

Abraham Odhiambo is an avid sports fan who loves to write about football, boxing and wrestling. He's a big supporter of Manchester United. He's pursuing a bachelor's degree in Communication and Media at Egerton University.

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