Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice to lead his team to a comfortable 3-0 win over minnows Panama in their first match of the 2018 World Cup on Monday. A day before that match, Lukaku’s article in the Player’s Tribune, an online portal where professional athletes tell their stories, explained the struggles that the striker and his family went through while growing up in Belgium. “I remember the exact moment I knew we were broke. I can still picture my mum at the refrigerator and the look on her face,” said Lukaku in the article.
“Then this one day I came home, and I walked into the kitchen, and I saw my mum at the refrigerator with the box of milk, like normal. But this time she was mixing something in with it. She was shaking it all up, you know? I didn’t understand what was going on. Then she brought my lunch over to me, and she was smiling like everything was cool. But I realized right away what was going on. She was mixing water in with the milk. We didn’t have enough money to make it last the whole week. We were broke. Not just poor, but broke.”
Lukaku goes on to say that he told his mother that he would make it at 16, which his father told him was the minimum age a player needs to be to play professional football. “I was late by 11 days,” says Lukaku. He made his debut for Brussells based club Anderlecht – which was his professional debut – 11 days after he turned 16 and it was in the Championship playoff match against Standard Liege. “The Belgian league was crazy that year, because Anderlecht and Standard Liege had finished tied on points. So there was a two-leg playoff to decide the title. During the first leg, I’m at home watching on TV like a fan. Then the day before the second leg, I get a phone call from the coach of the reserves,” he said. The coach asked him to pack his bags and travel to Anderlecht as quickly as possible as the first team needed him. He made his debut as a subsitute in the 63rd minute of the match which Anderlecht went on to lose.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 19, 2018
Lukaku went on to play for Chelsea from where he was loaned to West Bromwich Albion and later Everton. He made the move with Everton permanent and played there for four years before moving to Manchester United for an initial 75 million Pounds, plus 15 million Pounds in add-ons. He is currently one of the most prominent figures in the Belgian squad playing in Russia, alongwith the likes of Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.