Argentina's Carlos Tevez: Warrior from Fuerte Apache

Ozren Podnar reports...

Who is the magnificent twister and turner with Maradona's number 10 on the shirt who recently became the only player to have been voted South American player of the year twice in a row?

He is Carlos Tevez, a child of the worst Buenos Aires city block called Fuerte (Fort) Apache, whom Maradona touted as "the Argentinean prophet for the 21th century".

Recently transferred to Rio's Corinthians for 18 million USD, the highest sum ever paid in a transfer between American clubs, Tevez won his second consecutive "Football King" award from Uruguay's El Pais ahead of his fellow countryman Javier Mascherano and the Brazilian prodigy Robinho.

The last year was magnificent for Maradona's heir apparent as he collected the Olympic gold medal after coming second at the South America Championship with Argentina, and in his last game for Boca Juniors he also made sure his team won the Copa Sudamericana against Bolivar of La Paz.

The Olympic tournament in Greece was his crowning glory, seeing Tevez score eight times as the "gauchos" won all six games with a 17-0 goals difference. The previous year was even better for the tiny monster, who helped Boca capture the Argentinean championship, Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup, all of it aged just 19.

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"This guy has hundreds of goals hidden in his boots", wrote an enthusiastic reporter of the Brazilian magazine Placar, but goals is not all he can do.

He is a tremendous maker of chances, capable of holding on to the ball until a defensive crack appears through which to send the deadliest of assists. Tremendously entertaining, he knows all the tricks, but never aims to please, just to win.

As a kid, he first played for local teams Estrellas del Uno, Santa Clara and Villa Real, before joining the youth system of All Boys, from whom he was recruited by Boca at 14.

In three years in Boca's youth categories he scored 72 goals, progressing through all national team levels.

In August of 2001 he played a friendly with Boca's seniors against Union scoring a goal, and on October 21st he made his debut in the First Division against Talleres.

His explosive bursts, tight ball control and top class finishing made him coach Carlos Bianchi's favourite.

Mystery of the red spot

He went through a sort of a crisis in early 2003 when Bianchi returned to Boca after Oscar Tavarez's year in charge. The stern teacher thought Carlos had put on a little too much weight while he was away so he sidelined him for a while until he put his figure in order. When that happened, Tevez was back better than ever.

He formed a magnificent offensive tandem with Marcelo Delgado, leading Boca all the way to their fifth Copa Libertadores, the South American version of the Champions League.

Tevez is so gritty because he comes from Fuerte Apache, the Bronx of Buenos Aires, where only the strongest survive in good health and on the right side of the law. He had to narrate the story of his life hundreds of times to the reporters he hates as much as he hates quarantines before games.

His childhood was marred with hunger and poverty. His parents Raimundo and Adriana had to be very resourceful to feed him and his four younger brothers and sisters, Diego, Miguel, Ricardo and Debora.

"Sometimes we had little to eat because my old man could not find a job as a bricklayer, but to hear 'I love you' from my parents was enough to help the hunger pass. Seeing them struggle gave me inner strength and made me what I am today."

He is himself called Apache although the red mark ("mancha") that he carries on his body is not a battle colour, rather the result of boiling water poured over him when he was ten months old.

"My mom was making tea while I crawled on the kitchen floor, waving my arms and hit the kettle handle.

The kettle fell and the hot liquid spilled all over me", adding he would never undergo esthetic surgery even though the kids called him Manchado (Spotty).

As if that incident was not enough, he broke a front tooth when a girl in the nursery accidentally hit his jaw with her head. The blows did not demoralize him, in fact they made him all the more courageous against older guys on the soccer field.

"Street soccer is the greatest thing in the world. There is just you and your friends against the rest. If someone feels he has to stick a foot in your throat, he will."

When he became the first team regular, Boca pulled him and his family out of Fuerte and transferred them to a residential area of the capital.

The directors allegedly insisted on the move because knives frequently flash and guns "accidentally" fire in the area, so why risk something nasty happening to a precious asset like Tevez.

He believes the people have the ability to choose even if they live in bad places like Fuerte.

"I could have started doing drugs and ended at the bottom, but instead I made it to the place where I am now.

In fact my childhood was nice. I learned then all the values that grace me now: respect, humility, sacrifice."

Carlos Tevez

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Full name: Carlos Tevez
Nicknames: Carlito, Apache, Spotty
Birthdate: February 5, 1984
Birthplace: Buenos Aires
Height and weight: 173 cm, 75 kg
Position: Forward
Club career & goals
2001/02 Boca Juniors 11 - 1
2002/03 Boca Juniors 32 - 10
2003/04 Boca Juniors 23 - 12
2004/05 Boca Juniors 9 - 2
2005 Corinthians
International career
2004 Argentina A 10 - 2
2004 Argentina (Olympic team) 6 – 8
Honours: South American Player of the Year (2003, 2004)
Argentinean Championship (2003)
Copa Libertadores (2003)
Intercontinental Cup (2003)
Copa Sudamericana (2004)
South American Championship silver medal (2004)
Olympic gold medal (2004)

Carlos Tevez Case - a look at the Tevez's controversial transfer to West Ham United in August 2006.

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