By Irena Kurpiel of Goal.com
Carlos Tevez is undoubtedly one of todayâ€™s most exciting and talented strikers. Heavily touted by his fellow countrymen as future successor to the yet-unclaimed Maradona throne, the 21-year-old â€œApacheâ€ carries the burden of extremely high expectation on his broad shoulders.
â€œEl Manchadoâ€ — â€œThe Stained Oneâ€
Born in Capital Federal, Argentina, on February 5, 1984. Carlitos Alberto Tevez was the first-born son of mother, Adriana, and father, Raimundo. At a mere ten months, an unfortunate accident left him scarred for life: While exploring the terrain of his motherâ€™s kitchen floor, Carlos pulled a kettle of boiling water over himself. This caused third-degree burns to the right side of his face, neck and chest and left him in intensive care for almost two months.
Today the scars are a visible signature of Carlitos, who refused an offer from his Boca Juniors to have them cosmetically improved, saying that the scars were a part of who he was in the past and who he is today.
The eldest of five children, Carlos adopted the name â€œEl Apacheâ€ because of the neighborhood where he and his siblings were raised. Ejercito de los Andes, known as â€œFuerte Apacheâ€ (Fort Apache) is a heavily avoided barrio in the Argentine capital, renowned for its violence, drugs, and poverty. Living there was a challenge for the Tevez family, and hunger was a daily reminder of their indigence. Carlitosâ€™s father, a bricklayer by trade, found employment to be scarce, and the responsibility of bringing food to the table was a daunting task. Because of this, Carlos learned his survival instincts very early on in life, and figured out a way to fend for himself: Before hitting double digits, he was regularly playing soccer for local street teams in exchange for a burger and a coke.
News of the kidâ€™s talent spread throughout the neighborhood and pretty soon, lower division All Boys Club came cherrypicking. The starlet, then only eight years old, was at the top of the basket.
Tevez stayed at All Boys until Boca Juniors signed him at thirteen years of age. He was taken into serious development on the Boca youth squad and went on to score more than seventy goals at the youth level, gaining an incredible amount of respect from Bocaâ€™s management who quickly realized they were about to unleash a monster similar to one they had unleashed two decades earlier named Diego Maradona.
This simple, unadorned name began making world headlines at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship held in Trinidad and Tobago. Scoring two superb goals in the tournament Tevez helped the junior Albiceleste gain fourth place. That same year he went on to make his first division debut with Boca Juniors against Talleres De Cordoba. His on field style was an immediate hit with coach Carlos Bianchi, who named him the â€œNew face of Boca.â€
Over the next few years, Tevez and Boca Juniors ruled the Argentine soccer world. The teamâ€™s apogee came in 2003, when the Blue and Gold won the Argentine championship, the Copa Libertadores, and the Intercontinental Cup. That year, Tevez was selected as Footballer of the Year by the Argentine press, a feat he repeated in 2004.
Meanwhile, Tevez also led Argentinaâ€™s U-20 squad to the 2003 South American championship, after which Carlitos was rumored to be on his way to Europe, with Bayern Munich reportedly offering upwards of $15 million for the young midfielder. But his heart was with Boca. In fact, it was so stuck on the Bombonera, that his devotion led him into the headlines for the first time for something other than his skills. After the U-20 South American championships, he made a controversial decision to play with Boca against AC Milan in the Intercontinental Cup instead of representing his country at the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championships. Even though his participation in the game against Milan was a mere 18 minutes, Bocaâ€™s penalty shootout win was unlike anything Tevez had ever experienced, and the flavor lingered.
Being named South American Player of the Year for a second time, 2004 proved to be the most monumental period in Tevezâ€™s career. The strikerâ€™s burning desire not merely to play but to always win was revealed when worldwide images showed him in tears of disappointment after Argentina lost in penalty kicks to Brazil in the final of the Copa America.
Just weeks later, at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, the emotionally charged Tevez was determined that history would not repeat, and he literally carried his team to the nationâ€™s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Scoring eight goals in six games, Carlitos was named player of the tournament and once again became a focal point of talent scouts worldwide. But when he returned home, he found that on-the-field fame can come hand-in-hand with off-the-field repercussions.
With a gold medal to his name and a golden future in his pocket, Tevez found that the streets of Buenos Aires were no longer a peace haven. His footsteps were constantly traced by a barrage of flash photography and tape recorders. At first, the newfound attention was flattering and a bit of fun. But once Tevez realized that he was in the proverbial fishbowl — and that he was the only fish — his frustrations began to flare. A whirlwind romance with model/actress Natalia Fassi at the same time as announcing that his ex-girlfriend Vanessa was pregnant with his child had the judgment police out in force. Soon Carlos was fist fighting with photographers, charging at reporters, and demanding that the public just leave him alone.
The pressure mounted. Atletico Madrid dropped any talks of buying Tevez due to his disorganized personal life. Argentina coach, Jose Peckerman, followed suit and ditched him from the national squad, saying that unless he learned to deal with life more professionally, he would not return.
Tevez felt his country was disowning him. And his reaction was a like-minded betrayal of sorts: He left Argentina for Brazil. His move from his beloved Boca to Sao Paulo-based side Corinthians last December, was the largest transfer in South American history: â€œEl Apacheâ€ was now valued at $22.5 million.
â€œCarlitosâ€ — No. 10
Tevezâ€™s highly publicized move to Brazil was both revered and rejected. Carlitosâ€™s name was smeared by internal accusations of priority treatment. The vast difference in his salary compared to the other Corinthianos caused a teething period that brought resentment from his teammates, both on and off the field. A fistfight between Tevez and defender Marquinos was caught on camera at a team training session. After the images were broadcast on national TV, Tevez was once again the town scandal.
Problems between Carlitos and the Brazilian referees have kept his soap operatic life under scrutiny. Most recently he received a three-game ban for swearing at a ref and was later slapped with a lawsuit for making sexist comments about females being inadequate in officiating Brazilian soccer games. The last bit even disgusted of his own mother.
And there is always the hint that he is headed to Europe. In September, he was fined for wearing a Manchester United Jersey to a press conference.
However, there are few criticisms levied at Tevezâ€™s game these days. His ability to easily break down a defense makes him superior soccer entertainment. He has a lightning reaction time and his decisiveness in front of the goal produces results only few can claim. Constantly double teamed, frequently fouled yet rarely stopped. On the â€œcancha,â€ Tevez drowns all doubts about him in a tub of talent.
And this season, the 21-year-old Tevez has settled into his role as captain and driving force of the Corinthians attack. As a result, the TimÃ£o are atop the BrasileirÃ£o table and have cruised into the quarterfinals of the Copa Sudamericana.
Tevez has been reinstated into the Argentina squad and made sporadic appearances in the recent World Cup qualifying stage. He is already dreaming of Germany 2006.
â€œHeâ€™s got to go to the World Cup because heâ€™s not only the best striker in Argentina, but the best striker in the world today,â€ Corinthians coach Antonio Lopes recently said. â€œIf I were coach of Argentina, Iâ€™d have him in my first team line-up without a shadow of a doubt.â€
By any name, Carlos Tevez is the real deal. He is bathing in determination and has the skill to easily deliver these results. At this moment, the ball is his oyster. It may be too early to say, â€œMove over Maradona, here comes El Rei,â€ but that day may not be far off.
By the Numbers
Birth date: 05 Feb 1984
Weight: 67 kg
Current club: Corinthians (BRA)
Former clubs: Boca Juniors (ARG)