Letter to My Younger Self

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This piece was originally published in Portuguese.

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Para leer en Español, haz click aquí.

Hey, Éder!

Yes, I’m talking to you.

Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong. I’m here because I want to tell you about a couple of things that will happen in your life.

You are probably not going to believe any of it. But for now, I just need you to trust me.

I know that you are the quietest kid on your street, perhaps even in the whole city of Sertãozinho. That’s cool. I also know that, even though your father is a former pro, football is not quite your thing. 

I’m not implying that you don’t enjoy it. Not at all; you’re just not passionate about it yet. At this point you are all about hanging out with your friends and your family, who you love above all else, and flying your kite high up in the clear blue sky. As long as things stay this way, life could not be better. Right? 

Well, I have some news for you, my friend.

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Sam Robles/The Players' Tribune

You are going to get so involved with football that your life will change completely. And I’ll tell you more, Éder: The game will become so important to you that you will even leave your home because of it. 

That’s how it will be! But don’t get too worried. All these changes will bring a lot of joy to you, your family and your friends. 

And it will happen sooner than you can imagine.

Do I have your attention now? Good. 

Let me tell you exactly how this fairytale will unfold.

One day you will show up at the football school where your dad coaches. He won’t know. In fact, he'll be shocked to see you there. 

Not even he knows what you can do with a ball at your feet. Actually, you’ll hear him say something that will stay in your mind forever. This will become a joke between you and your friends.

Your dad is a coach — he knows a talent when he sees one, right?

Well, his verdict of the young Éder will be this:

“I don’t really know if he can play.”

When the teams are picked that day, you will be the last one to get selected.

But Éder, this will be no reason to feel humiliated. It is just the first of many surprises that football has in store for you. With the ball at your feet, you will do things that nobody thought you could do. Already in that match you will dribble your way past everybody and score goal after goal.

No one will be able to stop you.

People are going to freak out!

Soon everybody is going to admire your talent. The school’s teams will be fighting each other to get you. But guess what? You actually won’t see this as that big a deal. Sure, you think football is cool, but it’s not the most important thing, right?

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Courtesy Éder Militão

Playing comes naturally to you. But it doesn’t affect how you are. It doesn’t change how you see life.

In fact, things have a scale of values — and for you, spending time with your family and friends carries enormous weight. 

I do not blame you, Éder. You are not wrong for thinking like that. What may sound like a sign of weakness for many people is, in fact, your greatest strength.

So don’t be scared when Helião sounds harsh as he is teaching you how to pass the ball properly. Don’t worry when they invite you for a trial at São Paulo F.C.

A spoiler: This will be just the first of the big clubs you’ll play for.

But I also have to tell you something that’s not so cool.

Are you ready? Here it goes.

You’re going to cry a lot, Éder. Nobody is going to mistreat you or harass you. Whether you are in Cotia, Barra Funda or Morumbi, the coaches will always recognise your talent, But your heart will not be at peace. And that instability, that insecurity, has to do with how much you miss your parents.

It won’t be easy, my friend, I’m not going to lie to you. 

There will be a day when you’ll think about giving up everything. You’ll no longer want to play football as a professional. You’ll no longer be willing to be away from your friends and family.

But then your mother will ask you a question that only someone who knows you very well could ask:

She’ll say, “Don’t you want this?”

Éder, let me tell you: When you hear that, it will open your eyes.

Suddenly you will see what is happening to you in a different light. 

You will come to value more and more the comments from the coaches who are praising your game.

Éder, what comes naturally to you is not easy for the others. You are not just anyone.

Soon every striker in Spain will know that Militão plays fair, but hard.

Éder Militão

Your mother’s words will make even more sense when you are called up for the Brazil youth teams.  

That will be the click that was missing. Everything will change. 

It won’t make you change your ways. Your essence will remain intact, believe me. But playing for the national team will reinforce that feeling that you already had. 

From that moment on you will know that you want to be a footballer. 

And that certainty is going to change the way you approach this sport. I know that you already played with a lot of confidence, but off the pitch your dedication and commitment will become total. I’m talking about stuff like physical preparation, nutrition and recovery.

In fact, you’ll put aside old habits, and also a couple of friends who you hold dear. But this time it won’t be painful at all. Of course, you’ll miss them. You’re only human. But your life has taken on a new purpose now, and that will make all the difference.

All of this will happen so quickly, Éder, that you will hardly be able to remember the day you made it to São Paulo’s first team. The only reason you’ll recall it at all is that later... well, you’ll be sent back to the reserves.

You’ll have to start from scratch.

I told you I was going to be brutally honest, didn’t I? And to put it bluntly: You’ll be pissed off.

But remember: You cannot get discouraged. You cannot lose your focus, otherwise it will make you give up.

No, Éder. Instead you’ll remember that moment as one more opportunity to grow. I know you were never very good at school, but some experiences will mark you — and you’ll learn from them.

After all, how many players — players who are even more talented and just as dedicated as you — fell by the wayside for reasons just like this? How many million people would give anything to be in your place?

That is why you will always be grateful for what you have, and why everyone will take notice of how humble you are, on and off the pitch. 

When Rogério Ceni promotes you back to the first team in 2017, you will discover that rockets aren’t meant to travel backwards. This club legend will support you and say that you are there to stay. Then you will embark on a journey that will only continue to surprise you. 

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

It will be frantic, that is true. But you will never forget your transfer to F.C. Porto. I haven’t told you yet, but shortly after deciding that football would be your destiny, you’d also started to eye another objective: to play in the Champions League.

The move to Europe meant that this could happen sooner than you had imagined. So you will hardly believe it when you score your first goal in the Champions League — in just your fifth match in the competition.

It will be such a special moment, Éder. Even today, after so many matches, you’ll still be able to remember that goal in detail. The cross from Óliver Torres, how you got into position for the header, the way the ball landed quietly in the corner of the net. 

That feeling will be indescribable. And the only other thing you will remember from that moment is the celebration. Something will go wrong with the somersault, and the result will be quite … random. Seriously, hahaha!

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Miguel Riopa/Getty Images

Another episode will stay in your mind. Can you guess which? O.K., I’m going to tell you: It will be your first callup for Brazil’s first team.

A few years earlier the PlayStation was the only way you could play with those guys. Now they will be your teammates.

Dani Alves.

Thiago Silva.



You’ll hardly believe it when this dream comes true. But despite your enthusiasm, you won’t get starstruck. You’ll answer only when you are asked. Of course, you’ll have to take part in the initiation pranks, and present yourself in front of everyone at the team dinner. I’ll tell you right now: Be prepared to suffer! But when the ball gets rolling, you will play with confidence, no matter how famous your teammates are.

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Douglas Magno/Getty Images

This will be very important for the next step in your career.

You see, that kid who didn’t give a damn about football will enter the plans of Real Madrid, the biggest club in the world.

At the time of the transfer, you will be about to sign for another big club. But when your father talks to you about Real Madrid’s proposal, you hear that click again.

Don’t worry, Éder, because you will be calm. That quality is part of your nature. It helps explain who you are.

When you have Sergio Ramos, Raphäel Varane, Marcelo and Dani Carvajal by your side in the dressing room, you’ll just smile as if it were any other day in your life.

Now, Éder. I can reveal that your introversion is not going to leave you. But you’ll learn to leave it behind when you enter the pitch. When you feel you have to shout to alert or motivate your teammates, you won’t hesitate for a second. You’ll talk a lot more on the pitch than off it. It is as if you turn a key and become another person. On the pitch, you have no friends. It could be your mom or dad on the other side — you’d still hit them hard! And you will grow in front of your rivals. Soon every striker in Spain will know that Militão plays fair, but hard. 

You’ll be playing with the best footballers in one of the world’s leading leagues. But nothing will take away your self-assurance.

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Sam Robles/The Players' Tribune

Here is another cool thing. You will come to realise that you have not come this far just because of your talent. This journey is about a lot more than that. It’s about the teammates from all the teams you have played for. It’s about your friends, each and every one who has passed through your life at some point. It’s about your parents, who have always been by your side.

And your father, Éder, will tell you that after reaching the biggest team in the world, you must struggle to remain there. That will demand a lot from you. Deep down, though, you will feel reassured, because now you know what you can do. 

Who would believe it, Éder?! Soon you’ll play a Champions League final with Real Madrid. I still don’t know the result, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to give you one more piece of advice. 

Play with a smile on your face, as if you were flying a kite.

I don’t want to go on for too long, Éder, because if I remember correctly you have several matches to play this weekend, and you’ll have friends to meet. 

No problem. I also have to go out for training.

But I want you to know that if you at any point should have any doubt about your career, stay at peace.

After reaching the biggest team in the world, you must struggle to remain there. That will demand a lot from you.

Éder Militão

It will not be an easy choice, because in this life nothing is guaranteed. Even at such a young age, the only certainty you have is that your parents will make sacrifices so that you and your brother can have good lives. Also, you can’t imagine this now, but in a few years you’ll get a little sister!

So, don’t be afraid to follow what your heart tells you to do.

Don’t be afraid to change.

Éder Militão | Real Madrid C.F. | Letter to My Younger Self  | The Players’ Tribune
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Don’t be afraid to show up at the school where your father coaches, even when people are doubting your ability.

I am proof that you won’t regret it.

Oh, and in case this makes you concerned ... don’t worry, you will still be able to enjoy parts of your former life, even when you dedicate yourself to football.

During the holidays, when you are playing for Real Madrid, you’ll find time to go out in the streets, unroll your thread and fly your kite. You’ll still face the strong winds with the serenity that you are showing out on the pitch.

Nothing rash.

Some might say overly calm.

But that will always be your way.