Lamine Yamal has already broken numerous records but on Sunday the most important one might fall as well. Source: Imago Images
Lamine Yamal has already broken numerous records but on Sunday the most important one might fall as well. Source: Imago Images

Lamine Yamal’s story from concrete court to the top of the world

EURO OlyBet 11.07.2024

The city of Mataró, home to 130,000 residents in Northeastern Spain, usually doesn’t attract much attention. However, since the end of 2022, this coastal city and specifically its district named Rocafonda has appeared on world (football) map.

That’s because this is where young Spanish superstar Lamine Yamal, who scored a stunning goal in the semi-final against France, grew up – if one can say that about a 16-year-old.

Lamine Yamal Nasraoui Ebana, his full name, first touched the ball on a concrete court next to the Rocafonda stadium: a place where children whose parents cannot afford training fees play their own street-games.

Yamal came from a poor family. His mother, with roots in Equatorial Guinea, and his father, with a Moroccan background – both Spanish, though, and Yamal himself was also born in Spain – scraped together what little money they could, mainly doing menial jobs, but with a clear goal: to secure the best future for their child.

Saw something straight away

To achieve this, the family even split up at one point. When Yamal was three, his mother Sheila got a job at a fast-food chain in the nearby town of La Torreta. After moving there, she and little Lamine met Inocente Diez, who plays a crucial role in Yamal’s life.

Called Kubala, after FC Barcelona legend László Kubala, Diez was a former footballer who mostly played at the local level. At the time of meeting Yamal he was the coordinator of a local football club and encouraged the mother to bring young Yamal to training. And so she did.

“You could tell he was special. At that age, you never know what’s going to happen, it’s such a big industry. But he seemed touched by a magic wand,” Diez said about Yamal.

Although circumstances forced the Yamal family to move back to Rocafonda, young Lamine continued to train with La Torreta. However, since his father did not have a car, Diez drove him back and forth between the two towns.

La Torreta FC also supported Yamal’s family – and other struggling families – by reducing their training fees and agreeing on payment schedules. All in order to keep talented youngster within football.

Needed only one opportunity

The best way to describe just how talented young Lamine was – or rather, is – is with the fact that while La Torreta’s most talented kids usually go to the academies of Damm or UE Cornella, Lamine went straight to FC Barcelona’s academy.

And to get in the famous La Masia, he needed just one trial. Apparently, a scout was watching a youth game in La Torreta one day, and upon seeing Lamine, he immediately called his Barça contact and burst: “You just have to give this kid an opportunity!”

In 2014, that opportunity was given, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Averaging two goals per game

At La Masia, where Yamal’s first coaches were David Sanchez and Albert Puig, the youngster flourished even more. From the age of seven to twelve, when football in Spain is played 7-a-side, our protagonist was always one of Barcelona’s standout players.

During that period he played 151 matches for Barcelona and scored – pay attention now! – 301 goals. It’s also worth noting that although Yamal mostly played as a forward, he was sometimes used on the left wing as well, which in a 1-3-2-1 formation meant a full-back role.

Though the transition to the next age group, where football is finally played 11-a-side, is challenging for many young players – reason: there is less space on the pitch – this was not a setback for Yamal.

Yes, his goals-per-game ratio declined – 56 goals in 98 games – but at the same time, his assist number increased. The exact figures remain a mystery here as such statistics are not (well) tracked in Spanish youth classes, but we trust the words of Barcelona’s youth coaches.

Rising and developing faster than Messi

Due to his rapid development, Yamal was quickly promoted to higher age groups – it’s worth noting that this always came with new coaches, demands and challenges – resulting in him playing for FC Barcelona’s U19 team at just 15 years old.

This was an unprecedented as even Lionel Messi was not rushed through the youth ranks at such a pace. However, Yamal jumped over all of the “obstacles” like a gazelle, leading Barça U19 coach Oscar Lopez to approach the club’s head coach Xavi in December 2022 and say: “I think he deserves a chance with the first team.”

Xavi trusted his colleague and invited then-15-year-old forward to first team’s training. Four months later, Yamal made his debut for Barcelona, coming on as a substitute in the 83rd minute in a La Liga match against Real Betis.

By doing so, he made history as the youngest player to take the field for FC Barcelona at 15 years, 9 months, and 16 days. However, he did not break the La Liga record: in terms of days, Oscar Ramon, Pedro Irastroza, Sanson, and Luka Romero (all 15-year-olds) are ahead of him.

Records just keep falling

Though he missed that mark, Yamal has since claimed countless other youth records. For example, by now he is …

… the youngest player to start a La Liga match (16 years and 38 days)

… the youngest player to record an assist in a La Liga match (16 years and 45 days)

… the youngest player to start for the Spanish national team (16 years and 57 days)

… the youngest player to score for the Spanish national team (16 years and 57 days)

… the youngest player to score in the European Championship qualifiers (16 years and 57 days)

… the youngest player to start in a Champions League match (16 years and 83 days)

… the youngest player to score for FC Barcelona (16 years and 87 days)

… the youngest player to score in La Liga (16 years and 87 days)

… the youngest player to play in EUROs (16 years and 338 days)

… the youngest player to score in EUROs (16 years and 362 days)

And this Sunday he might also become the youngest player EVER to be crowned European Champion. It would certainly be a beautiful birthday gift to himself as Yamal turns 17 just a day before the final.

That being said, it is fitting to ask: how did you celebrate your 17th birthday?


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