Photo credit (above): Maciej Rogowski Photo / Shutterstock.com
Although player transfers are rarely big news outside of the football (soccer) world beyond the fan base, Nunez’s story is one that continues to inspire. He has gone from having nothing to the verge of playing for one of the greatest clubs in the world today.
Nunez and his family are from Artigas, living in one of the poorest places in Uruguay. The city is right on the border of Brazil and the furthest community away from Montevideo, the country’s capital.
His father worked in construction, while his mother collected plastic bottles to ensure there was money for food. Nunez remembers that there were nights they would go to bed without something to eat, but his mother always put Nunez and his siblings first. []
“I went to bed several evenings with an empty stomach,” said Nunez, “but the one who went to bed more was my mother. She ensured that I and my brother eat first. My mum often went to bed without joining us.”
“Never will I forget where I came from.” Friends Shared Snacks with Him at School
If the Nunez family had a meal, it was only once per day. Sending the boys to school for a day of learning without any food became the norm.
“If I keep working, I’m going to achieve [a better standard of living] and please my parents, who did everything for me when I didn’t even have a pair of shoes for football,” Nunez said.
It Wasn’t Just Poverty That Created Problems for the Family
Agriculture is the primary economic driver in Artigas. Farmers in the area trade maize and other grains with Brazil and Argentina, which brings in a little cash. The local airport and railroad station focus on crop exports more than passenger movement to ensure what little is available gets distributed to the community of about 40,000 people.
Since agriculture is the primary activity, the ground around the region isn’t always stable. Nunez’s family experienced regular heavy floods that damaged property throughout the entire city.
Despite those challenges, Nunez and his brother played for a youth team a few miles from their home. At an early age, the boys recognized that playing football could be the ticket that helped them change their lives.
Nunez’s brother Junior recognized that Darwin was a better player, so he returned to Artigas to help the family make ends meet. That allowed Darwin to stay with the team, pursuing his dream of becoming a professional player.
Darwin says that his brother is his “hero,” and after earning a contract, he was able to move the entire family from Artigas to Montevideo.
Nunez Played Through an ACL Injury
While playing on a third-division club in Uruguay, Nunez suffered a torn ACL. It was an injury that took him out of competitive play, but he continued to work to help his family make ends meet.
His brother would help him get back into game shape, an effort that impressed Darwin’s manager so much that he gave both boys a shot in the first team.
The pain from the ACL injury was so great that he had to ask doctors for help managing the injury. After coming on as a substitute against the team’s arch-rivals, another knee injury, and eventually surgery, were necessary to save his career. Instead of quitting, he battled on, earning a call-up to the U20 national team and transferring to Almeria in Spain.
From that moment on, Nunez knew that he would have a chance to fulfill his dreams, continuing to climb the ladder in European soccer until he became one of the top targets for clubs to pursue in 2022.
The days of surviving on little food, dealing with floods, and all the other sacrifices have helped him to become one of the top footballers in the world. Although hard work and dedication won’t guarantee that someone can win, you won’t earn opportunities without those elements.
Whenever Darwin scores, he remembers his first coach. “I dedicate a goal to heaven,” he says, “to a friend who will always be in my heart. I was six years old when he taught me to play football. He gave my mom work and always kept an eye on my family. I point to the sky and say, ‘I will carry you forever in our heart.’”
[] Liverpool close to completing signing of Darwin Nunez for club record £85m (yahoo.com); [] To Liverpool, From Uruguay: Darwin Nunez’s Incredible And Inspirational Story To The Top - Sports Illustrated Liverpool FC News, Analysis, and More; [] Darwin Nunez Childhood Story Plus Untold Biography Facts (lifebogger.com)