As Paulinho prepares to play for Brazil in the FIFA World Cup against Mexico, a long piece written by him for The Players’ Tribune has come out in which he talks about his struggles.
From playing in the fourth division in Brazil, to flopping in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur, to living in apparent exile in China, to joining Barcelona on a controversial transfer, to going to the World Cup, Paulinho does his best to maintain his optimism during the ups and downs.
But the most important struggle was personal:
But, in fact, after I signed for Barcelona, it was one of the most dramatic moments of my life. At the time, Barbara was pregnant with twins. They were due to be born in December, right before Christmas. One day in October, she told me that she was in a lot of pain and that she needed me to drive her to the doctor right away. She always refused to go to the hospital for anything, so I knew that something was wrong.
When we arrived at the hospital, they did some tests and took her straight into the ICU. Our twins were trying to come into the world, but it had only been 28 weeks. It was extremely dangerous. The doctors wanted her to hold on for two more weeks before giving birth in order to give their lungs a chance to develop.
I remember calling my parents back in Brazil and saying, “What will happen? Will they live?”
Thankfully, this story had a happy ending:
They both needed to stay in an incubator at the hospital for two months. They were not strong enough to come home. In those times, football seems very unimportant. People were talking about how well I was doing on the pitch for Barcelona, but privately, it was an extremely difficult time. There were days when I would be getting ready for training, and I would think of my children hooked up to tubes at the hospital.
I have to give all the credit to my wife. She was the hero. Me, I just had to play football. She had to fight for the lives of our children. It is unimaginable the strength that a mother can find when her children are in danger.
On December 23, Sofia and Zé Pedro came home.
That was the greatest Christmas gift I ever received.