Wednesday 30 October 2019, 13:35

The Brazilian Veron who nearly became a cowboy

  • Gabriel Veron named after Argentinian legend Juan Sebastian

  • No7 scored twice and impressed for Brazil at group stage

  • Before football, midfielder tried out as a ranch hand

A key player for the host nation at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Brazil 2019™, Gabriel Veron is forging his reputation with a rather unusual name for a Brazilian – the Seleção No7 having been named in honour of the former Argentina international.

The unusual idea to choose Veron as Gabriel’s second name – his surname is Fonseca de Souza – came from a neighbour and ardent admirer of former player Juan Sebastian Veron, who represented Argentina at the 1998, 2002 and 2010 editions of the FIFA World Cup™.

"I was named after former Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian," said the young Brazilian. "It was our neighbour's idea. He’d always wanted a son but ended up with three daughters. So, when my parents couldn’t decide on a second name for me [during the pregnancy] in 2002, our neighbour said: “why not call him Veron?

"My parents liked the suggestion," continued Veron (whose name does not take an accent, unlike the Spanish variant). "I really like the name and will try to live up to it, just as he [Juan Sebastian] did. I've seen clips of him on YouTube but never live unfortunately. He really was a very good player."

Name: Gabriel Veron Fonseca de Souza
Date of birth: 3 September 2002
Club: Palmeiras
U-17 stats: 21 caps (6 goals)
Idol: Cristiano Ronaldo
Nickname: "Raio"

The No7 was one of Brazil's star performers during the group phase, when the hosts won all three of their games. On their debut against Canada, Veron weighed in with an assist for John Peglow and a goal of his own. He followed that with an assist for Kaio Jorge's strike against New Zealand but saved the best for last against Angola, when, after a mazy run from midfielder that saw him evade four markers, he calmly side-footed the ball past the helpless keeper.

"I imagine he [Juan Sebastian] would be proud of me. I think I honoured the name with that one," joked the Brazilian.

So far at this World Cup, Gabriel has been deployed on the right wing, from where he has been mainly creating openings for strikers Talles Magno and Kaio Jorge. His partnership with right-back Yan has been one of their strengths during the tournament, although the latter will miss their last-16 meeting with Chile on Wednesday due to suspension.

Veron of Brazil U-17 celebrates after scoring

Following the cowboy tradition

Now 17, Gabriel Veron is a hugely promising young player on the books of one of the country’s top sides, Palmeiras. However, before football became the focus of his life, this native of a small town in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte harboured thoughts of becoming a cowboy.

"That’s my father’s profession – he’s a ranch hand who takes care of cattle and horses. He works in the countryside, and I tried to do the job alongside him, but just couldn't. Fortunately, my mother kept encouraging me to pursue a career in football to try to have a better future. So, I dedicated myself to being a footballer," he explained.

A career in the beautiful game began to look possible when he joined Palmeiras in 2017, having previously played for the modest Santa Cruz de Natal. And it was with the Sao Paulo giants that Gabriel enjoyed the finest moment of his burgeoning career, or at least until this FIFA World Cup.

The month was June 2018 and the midfielder, still just 15, played a decisive role in his side’s victory over Real Madrid in the final of the U-17 Club World Championship in Fuenlabrada, Spain. The teen sensation scored one of the goals in his side’s 4-2 triumph, finished the event as top scorer and earned high praise from the Spanish media. Now, though, he is hoping for a world title with his country – and on home soil as well.