RB Leipzig center-back and Bayern Munich-signee Dayot Upamecano was not always a stud defender. In fact, growing up, Upamecano made his name scoring goals (or at least trying to), not preventing them.
“Of course that helped me a lot. I didn’t score that many goals, but I fought, ran a lot, was very agile,” said Upamecano in an interview with Sport1. “Then I was placed in midfield, later in defense. I was allowed to do a trial at Valenciennes FC when I was 15. They asked me what position I play in. My answer: ‘You can line me up anywhere, just not in goal.”’
Upamecano spent those early days playing on asphalt in his hometown of Évreux in Normandy, where things always were rough-and-tumble, but not dirty.
“There was no referee, there were always tough duels. But we didn’t need a referee either. The rules were clear and everyone obeyed them,” said Upamecano. “We fought for each other. On the soccer field, you learned above all not to let your teammate down. Even bloody knees were no excuse to let your team down. It was tough, but also a special togetherness. It worked I had to learn how to win and how to lose. And it was about supporting your teammates. Those were very important lessons. The team was above everything, and giving up was not an option.”
Upamecano still thinks fondly about those days and how his mother would have to practically drag him back into the house at the end of the day.
“My life next to school consisted of friends and soccer. It was difficult enough for mom to get me home at all,” said Upamecano. “She would call: ‘Dayot, come now! It’s over for today!’ I replied: ‘No, no, five more minutes, please. I’ll be right there.’ At home I first had to take care of myself. But that was normal, no problem. The most important thing was to win! My knees are still marked from that time.”