Neymar: from lanky lad to solid-built soccer player

Brazilian star Neymar has made a successful comeback from an ankle surgery. AFP

Fans worldwide would give anything to know what fuels Brazilian heartthrob Neymar’s 90-minute powerplay on field.

He’s slim and fit and occasional injuries notwithstanding, his gazelle-like moves give folks the awwws. He’s no body-builder like Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps. Nor does he have Messi’s sturdy muscles. So what’s it that gives Neymar the adrenaline rush when he steps on the turf? There apparently is a secret.

The year was 2000 and an eight-year-old boy was addicted to burgers and carbonated drinks. But he had a passion for something else too – football. That’s what brought him to one of Brazil’s long-time legends, defender Antonio Lima, the great Pele’s teammate with whom he grew up playing soccer on the mean streets of Brazil.

Lima surveyed that piece of life which stood before him, nothing else but skin and bones, a diminutive Neymar da Silva Santos. On being asked what his staple food was, Neymar rattled off the names of the junk he was downing daily. Lima warned his young ward not to ever touch such stuff again. From that day, burgers and colas were only the stuff of little Neymar’s dreams.

FIFA World Cup: Brazil vs Switzerland
Brazil's forward Neymar falls during the World Cup match against Switzerland. AFP

When Neymar joined Barca, the dieticians there were skeptical about the performing power of the lad with spindly limbs. How could they allow him to even be seen on the ground?

From the hot and spicy grub of Brazil, the young player had to be put through Barca’s special diet meant exclusively for players. Under such circumstances, it’s but natural for players from different lands to get adjusted to the diet food provided. Consequently, a lot of them lose weight initially as they tend to peck on the 'unpalatable' food before getting used to it.

It’s the Gatorade Sports Science Institute which helps sports persons and players optimize their abilities by strictly monitoring their dietary habits and prescribing a daily exercise regimen. And this is what the institute did for Neymar. The trainers, including the famous Davy Luka, put him through a special diet of rice and beans, which in reality is our humble Malayali kanji (gruel) and payar. It was a punishment of sorts for the Brazilian player. The flavour was so typically Spanish.

When you westernise it, the gruel and payar becomes rice and beans in Spain, which brings us to the noon-meal scheme of our state when schoolkids were given free kanji and payar.

Kidney beans

The body needs a build-up or proteins, carbs and vitamins. Gradually, in addition to the rice-beans combo, pizza, pasta and salads were included in Neymar’s diet.

Today, one can easily see the transformation from a skinny Neymar to a well-formed young man with muscles to his hands and legs. Surely, it just can’t be kanji and payar or rice and beans which did the trick! Neymar then lets out his secret. Whenever possible, and that’s pretty always, he tucks into Japanese food, of which he raves. And that is, when he manages to dodge the sharp eyes of his trainers and dieticians. Nippon aroma is what enthrals the player as of now.

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