Former Arsenal and Brazil midfielder Gilberto Silva has spoken about his past and the difficult path he took to being a footballer.

The ex-Gunner and World Cup winner had a rather unorthodox route to the top. As is the case with most Brazilian footballers, Gilberto came from humble beginnings and had to help his family from a very young age.

“As the only boy in the family out of four kids, I was the oldest one and had to become a man very young,” he told Arsenal Player. “I remember I started working when I was 11 years old. I wanted to have my money. The situation with my family was not best financially and my father had to work hard to raise us. 

“We were happy in the village I grew up in, free, we didn’t have any crime or drugs. You didn’t hear about the crazy things that you hear about nowadays. We enjoyed being part of that environment. I grew up playing football on the streets with my friends, until I got the chance to play for an amateur football school and learn some things. 

“This is what I did in the past. I played, went to school in a small village where everyone knew each other. That was nice because everyone helped one another through difficult times. [I’m] very proud because it’s not very common for someone to come from the village I came from to have achieved these things. It was very small, tiny in fact.” 

Even when Gilberto joined his first club, it wasn’t smooth sailing. He recalled a situation where he had to quit football temporarily so he could help his family. “You face many difficulties in life, like when I was with my first club. I had to give up for a bit to go back home and work so I could help my family,” he added.

“My mum had a very hard time and had to undergo treatment until she recovered. I was there beside my family to help them on the financial side by working. Then, when I went back to football, it seemed that I got the credit for what I had done in the past and then I got credit for what I was doing when I started playing again. 

“Everything started to happen very fast in my career, and I took every opportunity. It’s something which made me feel very proud of how far I’ve come.”

His upbringing may have helped him adjust to life in England as well as he did. Gilberto joined Arsenal from Atletico Mineiro in 2002 the summer after he won the World Cup with Brazil.

He would go on to make 170 appearances for the club, becoming the invisible wall for the Invincibles. He would then take over the captain’s armband in 2006 when Patrick Vieira left the club.

Gilberto left himself for Panathinaikos in 2008 and spent three seasons there before returning to Brazil with Gremio and Atletico Maneiro. He retired in 2015.