Gabriel has been frank and open about his childhood in Sao Paulo and it doesn’t make for easy reading by any means.
The Brazilian burst into the Arsenal first team due to illness and injury to our two main centre-backs. He stepped up to the plate and delivered exactly what was needed, earning him the respect the Arsenal fans quickly.
It soon became very clear, most notably in his sending off against Chelsea when he clashed with Diego Costa, that the defender was a little rough around the edges but little was actually known about why this could be. Instead, we just praised the fact that we had another Martin Keown type amongst our ranks.
Now, Gabriel has opened up about his life in Sao Paulo, which involved poverty, robbery and murder, and expressed his pride at being able to give his mother a better life through his career at Arsenal.
“[My mother] lived in a shack in a favela,” he said. “I talk about it because I am not ashamed of saying it, and today I am proud of being able to help her, to give her a better life, and me as well because I always dreamed about it. Thanks to God, things are coming true.
“I have seen many things on the outdoor neighbourhood pitches. I have seen death, I have witnessed robberies, I’ve been robbed in Sao Paulo. I’ve seen many things. I practically grew up with this. But thanks to God I took a path in my life because, for all that I have seen, for the bad things I have witnessed, my life could have been very different.
“But I was strong. I thought about my mother’s story and told myself that my mother couldn’t go through this anymore. She can’t, she must have a better life. So thanks to God I took a different path and am here today. I am fulfilling a dream I had since I was little, and thanks to God things are moving in the right direction.”
The Brazilian’s gratitude is beyond touching and he still appears to be incredibly humble, which only makes him seem more deserving, in my opinion.