Life is a sum of decisions that lead us down one path or another. A simple decision, a minimal action, can mark it completely and take us down a completely opposite path to the one we are on. It can divert us and slow us down or it can lift us up and lead us on the right path. This article is a tribute to the path of Carlos Tevez who left his neighborhood to fulfill his dream, and that of all his friends and teammates from Santa Clara, who could not achieve it. Always with his friends and his tough childhood scarred on his skin. Scars that have made one of the greatest legends in the history of Boca Juniors even stronger. From Fort Apache to the world.
The childhood of Carlos “Carlitos” Alberto Martinez, years later Carlos Tevez, was very hard and marked what Carlitos would become as a player. Henever got to know his biological father because he abandoned the family shortly after birth and ended up losing his life in a shootout years later. His biological mother abandoned him when Carlitos was barely over six months old. Then appeared the figure that would change and mark his life: the one who would support him and guide him on the right path: the then boyfriend of his mother’s sister, that is, his uncle-in-law, Domingo Tevez. Carlitos was already a Tevez.
Domingo was the most important pillar in Tevez’s life. Alongside him, his wife, his mother’s sister, Adriana Martinez, who took in the boy who, at six months old, had been abandoned by both his parents. “My dad took care of me without having anything to do with me. He saw me very young, helpless, without a guide. He took charge of something he had no obligation to do.“said a grateful and emotional Tevez in a recent interview after Domingo’s passing in 2021. One more bump in the road in the life of the Apache. Because for Tevez his father was and is Sunday. That’s why, as soon as he became aware of the situation, Carlos Alberto Martínez changed his name to Carlos Alberto Tévez. A question of values and gratitude.
Carlos Tevez’s life changed forever at the age of ten months, when the little apache was dropped a pot of boiling water on his neck, face and chest which caused significant third-degree burns. Little Tevez was hospitalized for more than two months and the wounds turned into a huge scar. A brand that Carlos is proud to wear and that symbolizes his past and present. The symbol of moving forward. He could have taken it off, fixed it or at least hidden it, but Tevez has never hidden it. It is part of him.
After the event, little Tevez grew up in the Ejército de los Andes neighborhood more popularly known as Fuerte Apache. One of the largest neighborhoods in the province of Buenos Aires and one of the places with the highest rate of crime and drug trafficking in the Argentine city. There Carlitos started kicking a ball… or the first thing he could find.
“I come from a neighborhood where I was told it was impossible to succeed“.Carlos Tevez
Norberto Propato, who was Tevez’s coach at All Boys, a club from his early days, tells of the first time he saw Tevez “he was five years old, he was barefoot playing with a stone… and he still stood out“. That image did not leave Norberto’s head and days later, he rang the doorbell of the Tévez family to try to take Carlitos to All Boys. He asked his father to buy him some boots and he will take him to All Boys to try out. After much insistence, Domingo Tevez agreed.
Tevez formed one of the best teams in the history of the All Boys youth academy. As well as his brother Diego, Cabañas, El Morci, Pichila, Zapata. Tevez mentioned them with pride. “We put together a nice band,” he recalled emotionally in an interview. That team swept the league. Carlitos with the number 9 and his inseparable friend Dario Coronel with the number 10 (he was known as Cabanas because of his resemblance to the Paraguayan striker Roberto Cabanas, formerly of Boca Juniors). They formed the best partnership in Fort Apache. Friends and rivals on the court. They both wanted to be the best.
Carlos and Darío grew up together in node 1 of the Fuerte Apache apartment blocks. They were inseparable, they were brothers. They went to the same school and shared the dirt field of the neighborhood and the clubs of their childhood: Santa Clara and All Boys. In both they were champions. Nobody could stop them. Dario was the 10, the crack. “Puf, what a player… he was a monster, eh? The whole football scene was talking about him. He was even better than Carlitos”. Thus spoke Norberto de Cabañas. Of a player who would walk a different and wrong path than his brother Tevez, the wrong path.
At the age of 11, they both tried out for Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield. Their first experience in 11-a-side football. Cabañas was chosen. Not Tevez. And for the first time in 11 years they parted footballing ways. Cabanas soon became a leader and captain in the lower categories of Velez, wearing the number 8. He was going for crack. On the other hand Tevez entered the youth academy of Boca Juniors, the club of his life. The two parallel lives separated their footballing paths… and their lives. Although they continued a friendship forged at Fort Apache.
Cabañas soon began to stray from the path. Continued lack of discipline, unsportsmanlike conduct and absences from training and club matches. He joined the street gang of Fuerte Apache’s Knot 1, the notorious Backstreet Boys, and soon began to get into trouble with the law. While Carlos Tevez guided by Domingo, a figure that Cabanas did not count on, began to stand out in Boca.
“You have the future at your feet… An impressive future in a career that is beautiful. Get it right“Norberto told Cabañas on one of the last occasions he was able to talk to him. Cabañas was 15 years old. And there was no turning back. Tevez, meanwhile, continued his meteoric career, earning a call-up to the Argentina U-17 squad for the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
Tevez’s dream of wearing the albiceleste was fulfilled. El Apache was the best Argentinian player in a World Cup that would be won by France with the performance of an old acquaintance of the Spanish league, Sinama Pongolle. The former Atletico Madrid and Recreativo de Huelva among others, was the best player of a tournament where a youngster named Andres Iniesta began to emerge in Spain.
During that tournament, while Tevez was scoring a goal in the semi-final against France, in Fuerte Apache his friend Cabanas was committing suicide fleeing from the police after a robbery with his gang. Two lives united that followed different paths because of a small decision. Tevez found out when he returned home. Another hard blow for Carlitos to bear.
“Dedicate a goal to me boludo” Cabanas said to him just before Carlos left for the World Cup. That is why, for many years of his career, every time he scored a goal, Tevez would look up to the sky to dedicate himself to his brother Dario. He had one more reason to succeed.
Tevez’s career needs no explanation. A Boca hero and legend, he improved as a player at Corinthians before making the leap to Europe. He landed in the Premiership, east of London, joining compatriot Mascherano at West Ham. After a shaky start to his first European experience, he was the main protagonist in the Hammers ‘ salvation with a goal that would open the doors to the Theatre of Dreams.
West Ham came to Old Trafford needing a point to save themselves and it was Tevez with a goal that would give the London club the win. A goal and a performance that did not go unnoticed by Sir Alex Ferguson who asked for his signature in the market that was about to begin.
At Manchester United he formed one of the historic trio of the club with Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to win the Premier and Champions League. His departure, still considered a betrayal, hurts half of the city of Manchester because at the end of the loan that United had agreed with West Ham without an agreement, Tevez signed with the other club in the city: Manchester City.
There, together with David Silva, and with Roberto Mancini as coach with whom he would later have a rifirrafa which would dynamite his departure from the club, led the skyblue team to the conquest of his first Premier League. After four years at City, and seven in the Premier wearing the same dorsal, the 32, Carlos took the suitcases and went to Turin, Juventus. To lead the team with the number 10. The one in Cabañas.
In Turin made great seasons and saw the best Tevez. He was voted Juventus’ best player of the 2013/2014 season and won two Serie A titles and an Italian Cup. Two years later, Carlos made a decision: it was time to return home, to the club where he was born, to the club of his life: he returned to Boca Juniors a man.
He spent five seasons in six years at Boca, with a brief spell in the Chinese league with Shanghai Shenhua, where he became the highest-paid player on the planet. At Boca he won the league and went on to play in the final of the Copa Libertadores against arch-rivals River Plate in 2018. A final that was played in Madrid.
On June 4, 2021 Tevez again parted ways with Boca and football, he needed to stop. His father Domingo had passed away. Football was no longer a priority. So was his family.
Tevez, considered the player of the people, always so appreciated by the fans of the clubs he represented, had a series of conditions and virtues to succeed as a professional: strong but at the same time technical, fast and with a facility for hitting with both legs. He combined two of the most difficult conditions to see in the world of football:Quality and aggressiveness. And it brought them together in a way that enhanced their conditions. A player who made his mark wherever he played. One of those different players.
Carlos Tevez may have chosen the wrong path or strayed from the right path because of a minor decision but his determination to overcome all the adversities of his tragic life and his family pillars led him on the right path. His childhood marked on his skin would end up turning him into the person and footballer he is today and would bring together the values of respect, humility and sacrifice that have marked his entire career.