Felipe Anderson: West Ham midfielder on family, humble origins and his friend Neymar

By Simon StoneBBC Sport
West Ham's Anderson takes strength from 'difficult' childhood

West Ham's Brazilian midfielder Felipe Anderson has never forgotten what it was like growing up.

"A difficult childhood," he says, with a smile, "but a happy one."

He then explains what a difficult childhood, as the youngest of five siblings living in Santa Maria, in the south of the country, 150 miles from the border with Uruguay, actually means.

"There were times when we didn't have enough food on the table. When it came to the end of the month, I could see my parents were sad because they were unable to give us the best. They had lots of debts. Sometimes they had arguments about it."

Buying a pair of football boots, despite having obvious talent and a fierce determination to make the most of it, was impossible.

"That was not something I saw as an obstacle. If it meant I had to borrow boots from friends so be it.

"I take strength from that now. It has helped me to keep my feet on the ground and remain humble and also have a drive to help others because I know there are so many people in difficult situations."

It is why Anderson helps his family out back home and also explains why a 90-minute school visit in Barking is full of smiles.

A well-received surprise visit to a hall full of primary school children is the high point of a Hammers' visit, the kind of which vice-chairman Karren Brady pledged the club would make when she launched the club's ambitious Players' Project in November.

The project brings a focus to the club's community work and greater investment to deprived local communities.

The £13m spent so far is a signal of the Hammers' deeper commitment to an area they have said they will not abandon despite their move away from Upton Park, just two miles from Barking, to the London Stadium, almost six miles away.

Neymar the joker

Brazil's Luan celebrates with teammates Neymar (C) and Felipe Anderson after scoring against Honduras
Neymar "loves laughing and messing about" says Anderson

Felipe Anderson will never experience what it feels like to be a West Ham player at Upton Park, to follow in the footsteps of legends such as Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst.

Instead, he is creating his own history at the London Stadium, just as he did when he was part of the first Brazil side to win an Olympic gold medal at the Rio Games in 2016.

That experience was heightened by getting the chance to play alongside Neymar, the superstar he first got to know at Santos, after Anderson's childhood potential had impressed enough for the club to fly him 600 miles from home.

For Anderson, Neymar is nothing like the screaming diver he tends to be portrayed as.

He said: "Neymar is a such a joker. He is always making people laugh. He loves his music and he loves winding people up. He has always been like that and he is not going to change.

"If we are somewhere and there is no pitch, he will get on a table and encourage us to play a table-tennis style game with a football, two-on-two. He loves laughing and messing about."

Felipe Anderson on…

Being 'well suited' to the Premier League

I have always enjoyed dribbling. That has been a key part of my game and you do get quite a lot of space in England. But the game is very intense and it is difficult to keep it up for the 90 minutes. Every game is end to end, with attack after attack. I am still adapting to that side of the game and I need to get stronger.

Joining West Ham

The Premier League is the best league in the world, and it is very well regarded if you get a chance to play in it. I was very motivated from day one to repay the belief the club has shown in me. I have worked very hard to settle in quickly and am enjoying being part of the team, being in the city and taking part in such a project.

Best moment so far

Scoring in the win against Manchester United. We had played eight games before that and I hadn't got a goal. I did that day and we managed to win against a good Manchester United team. That game showed how good we could be.

Losing to Wimbledon, drawing with Liverpool

These things happen in football. If you take your eye off the ball or lose focus for even a minute you can lose a game against any team. The Wimbledon game did not go to plan and it really hurt us. We worked very hard against Liverpool and could have even won that game. Going forward that is our aim.

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