"I spent one year exactly lying in my bed. I was 14 years old. One day I went to get out of bed to go to the bathroom, but I couldn’t move. My back was in immense pain. My father tried and tried to get me up, but he couldn’t. From that point I spent one year lying in the exact same position. We had doctors. We had specialists. They couldn’t discover what was wrong. I couldn’t eat. I lost a lot of weight – I dropped to 48kg with the same height I have today (1.85m). I had to urinate and defecate lying down. I had to shower lying down. My mother had to be beside me 24/7. My father had to be beside me 24/7. Then, one day I woke up and, just as it had come, it had gone. Well, not overnight, but bit by bit. Corinthians were so important for me at this time. They didn’t release me. I was just a kid in their youth team who, after such an injury, nobody thought had any chance [of becoming a professional]. And they gave me every support possible. We didn’t have the money to go to private hospitals, but Corinthians insisted on paying and took me to the best possible hospitals. Even when I returned [to being able to walk], everyone expected them to release me because I was a bit lopsided. But they stuck by me and, slowly, I started getting better. Then my life took off."
Edu, who went from being paralysed to playing for Arsenal and Brazil

“My mum signed me up to go and help build a church in a small community in Uganda. I must admit I was quite sceptical at first. There was always quite a crowd watching us [build the church], and we arranged to play a game of football at the local school. When we got there it seemed like the whole community had turned up to watch, but what struck me was how happy they were. [The locals] had hand-cut the pitch – they’d used these huge knives, which I think they use to cut rice. It was a mixture of grass, mud and dust, but some of the grass was taller than the players – suddenly you’d see three people go after the ball and just disappear! But they didn’t care – they were just so happy to be playing. My dad used to coach a football team, and we’d taken over some kit for them. When we gave it to them, their eyes lit up, they were ecstatic. But before kick-off I noticed that only one of their players had boots. But when I looked closer, I noticed that he actually only had one boot, so I asked him where the other one was. He pointed to his friend on the bench and said, ‘We have very little, but what we do have, we share’. We have so much yet we complain about such trivial things; these people have absolutely nothing yet they are always smiling and have such values. I realised at that point that I had to do something.”
George Mann, a 16-year-old from a small English town, on the eye-opening story behind his setting up of the non-profit charity Boots4frica

"When I was six years old, I was sitting in my small classroom in Sierra Leone, when my grandmother showed up at the door. I immediately felt that something was wrong. She told me that we had to go back home immediately. [Next thing] I was getting into a car with my uncle, and looking back at my house with my tiny little suitcase and thinking,' Wow, I’m going to Hollywood!' When my uncle and I got to the port outside of Freetown, things got very real. There was a huge mass of people with suitcases trying to get onto the ferry. Government soldiers were patrolling the line. One of the soldiers got very aggressive with my uncle, asking for his visa. He didn’t have one. The soldier started pushing him away with his gun, and I got extremely scared. Then my uncle picked me up and handed me over the crowd to a soldier who was on the ferry. The next thing I know I’m standing on the ferry. Then the ferry started to move. My uncle was gone. I was alone in the chaos. I followed the crowds at the airport and clutched my plane ticket. When the plane landed, I thought I was in Hollywood. Then I walked out into the terminal and all the signs didn’t make any sense. They were in a foreign language. I started to panic. I was in Paris. I completely broke down crying right there in the hallway. Then a flight attendant that was on my plane recognised me. To six-year-old me, it felt like this woman saved my life. They put me on the second plane, and we went up into the sky again, into the unknown. When we landed again, I walked into the terminal and was relieved that the signs were in English. There was only one problem: my mother had left Sierra Leone when I was three years old, and the only things I had to recognise her were old photographs. People kept getting out of the cars and running up to their loved ones, and giving them hugs. I walked around the parking lot for a long time until a station wagon started following behind me very slowly. I thought I came all this way just to get kidnapped. Then a woman got out and started running toward me. I was about to drop my suitcase and run away as fast as I could when she said, ‘Michael!’ It was my mother. So this is where most stories end, and you go back to Facebook and feel pretty good about humanity. Even if you don’t know who I am, you can Google my name, and see that I went to college and currently play in the MLS. There’s your happy ending."
Michael Lahoud on escaping war-ravaged Sierra Leone

"It’s been the most sensational 24 hours of my life. I flew [to Liverpool] with the squad on Saturday. My wife called me at about 7pm to say she’d had a few twinges but nothing to worry about. Then she rang again at around 10:30pm to say, 'This is it! This is happening!' I jumped in the car and drove back to [Norfolk] and got there at about 3am. She gave birth at 9:25am. I left at 10:30am, back to Liverpool on the plane with the directors. I got there just in time. I’d had no sleep at all, but the adrenalaine got me through. Just to play at Anfield is special, but to score… I’m knackered now but at least I’ve got a nice story to tell my little boy when he’s older!"
Russell Martin

"I’ll admit it: Mihajlovic and Balotelli met in a car with tinted windows, in a parking lot in Florence just before the transfer window shut. It was like a scene from spy story! A love blossomed between the two."
Adriano Galliani on the relationship between AC Milan’s coach and No45

"The biggest ego came with beautiful vanity, with that fantastic body of his. Ronaldo would stand in the mirror and the others would throw socks and jock straps at him!"
Sir Alex Ferguson on Cristiano Ronaldo

"I was waiting in the airport – I didn’t even have suitcases. At 19:00 CET my agent said, 'You have to catch a flight [to Manchester]’. The contract offer arrived really late. My agent reviewed it and it was fine. I didn't want to go. I did the medicals in Valdebebas after that, but I didn’t return to the airport – there was no time. The transfer window had shut. As soon as I got home, near my wife, I burst into tears."
Keylor Navas on the breakdown of his swap deal with David de Gea

"Not at all. I played for the greatest manager of all time for the amount of time that I did, I was lucky to have played with the players I did and the team, and be successful with the club that I loved and still love. I tend to agree with the manager: there's certain players that you can call world-class – thankfully I played with many of them."
David Beckham responds to being asked if he was offended Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t name him among the world-class players he managed

"I went with Phillip Cocu to the hospital. I was nervous and it was very difficult at first, but he was very kind to me and didn’t blame me. He had seen the images and said it was part of football. That made me smile."
Hector Moreno on visiting Luke Shaw, whose leg he broke, in hospital