World Football's 5 Most Jeremy Lin-Esque Players

Mohamed Al-Hendy@Mo_HendyCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2012

World Football's 5 Most Jeremy Lin-Esque Players

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    Unless you've been living under a rock, chances are you've heard of the sports phenomenon known as Jeremy Lin by now.

    Although the hype around "Linsanity" is on the decline as New York has struggled with the return of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire to the starting lineup, Lin's story remains a remarkable and inspirational tale of overcoming huge odds to be successful. 

    I could go on and on about how amazing Lin's story is, but that's not what I want to focus on.

    What I want to talk about is: Who are World Football's Jeremy Lins?

    To be honest, there aren't any stories in football that are quite as remarkable as that of Lin. These types of stories come once in a decade, maybe even a century.

    But there are some great stories of players overcoming the odds to establish themselves as stars in World Football.

    Here, we'll take a look at five such stories.

Victor Moses

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    Victor Moses may be struggling to avoid relegation with club team Wigan Athletic in the English Premier League, but to even reach this stage he's had to overcome so much more hardship in his life.

    From Mirror Football, February 2009:

    Austin Moses, Moses' father, was a Christian minister in Kaduna, Nigeria at a time when religious violence between the Muslim majority and Christian minority was rife.

    Thousands of Christians had been killed there in 2000 when they objected to the imposition of Islamic Sharia Law, and news wires would mention countless examples of Christian pastors being butchered in their churches by Muslim rioters.

    Still, Austin Moses remained a pastor and with the help of his wife, Josephine, continued with his missionary work.

    Meanwhile, Victor Moses played football every day, in the streets or on a dusty concrete pitch surrounded by houses. His heroes were David Beckham and Michael Owen.

    But in 2002, there were more religious riots. The family knew that because Victor's father had his own church, he would be a target.

    Victor, the couple's only child, was playing football in the streets with a ball made up of sticky tape bound tightly together when his uncle came to find him.

    He told him rioters had set upon his parents in their home and murdered them. He said Victor's life was in danger, too. The little boy, an orphan at 11, was hidden at a friend's house.

    "I just tried to be careful afterwards," he said. "It was a week after they were killed I came to England.

    They got me out as quickly as they could for my safety."

    He left so fast and in such panic, shock and bewilderment that he did not even have the chance to bring any pictures of his parents.

    I asked him if he still had vivid memories of them and for the only time, his eyes blazed. "Yes," he said, "of course."

    Victor did not know anyone in England. He had never even been outside Kaduna before. He was placed with foster parents in Croydon and classified as an asylum seeker.

    He was juggling a ball in a park by himself one day when he plucked up the courage to ask if he could join in with a team training there, Cosmos.

    He began playing in the Tandridge Sunday League with them and was spotted by Palace scouts.

    They helped him gain admission to the highly-respected Whitgift School so he could take advantage of its superb sports facilities and the coaching of former Palace star, Steve Kember.

    Neil Warnock gave him his debut for Palace last season when he was 16 and he became a fans' favourite and an England Under-19s regular.

    Warnock came and sat with us for a while as we spoke and listened intently to what Victor was saying.

    The Palace boss experienced a different kind of parental bereavement at the same age as Victor when his mother died from multiple sclerosis.

    And for a couple of minutes the manager at the end of his career and the boy at the start of his talked about how they imagined their parents looking down on them as they continued with their lives.

    Warnock said Moses was good enough to play for one of the top four Premier League sides. He said if Palace did not progress, Moses would leave. He talked about how the boy came alive when he ran on to a football pitch, about how all the pain he seems to carry with him fell away when he had a ball at his feet.

    And he said he wished some of today's footballers, the ones who seem to take their gilded lives for granted, could see what Victor had overcome to get to where he is.

    Victor nodded. The dream of being a professional footballer meant something different to him, something terribly poignant.

    "When I look back," he said, "it makes me want to do everything I can for myself and make sure I am in the right place.

    "I want to live well and do the right things. I never want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time like they were."

    Moses is only 21 years old, and still developing his game as a winger. Already, though, his potential is apparent to any one who watches him, and his manager has spoken of him as being of the same "rare breed" as Lionel Messi.

    Moses will only get better with time, and who knows how great of a player he'll be by the time he begins to enter his prime.

Chris Smalling

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    After an excellent start to the season with Manchester United, Chris Smalling has seen his incredible progress slightly slowed down by injuries.

    Nevertheless, when looking at his career and background as a whole, Smalling's rise in world football is nothing short of spectacular.

    Just three-and-a-half years ago, Smalling was playing for Maidstone United in the Ryman Isthmian League, roughly seven levels below the English Premier League in England's football pyramid.

    However, due to his hard-work and commitment to the beautiful game, he was called up to the England Schools Under-18 team, where ultimately he was noticed by Middlesborough and Fulham.

    Despite only making one appearance in 2008-09 and 18 appearances in 2009-10 with Fulham, Manchester United were sufficiently impressed with Smalling's performances to offer Fulham £10 million for Smalling's services, and the rest is history.

    In under three years, Smalling has gone from a decent player playing in one of the many unknown leagues of England to being a top-class player, playing for one of the best teams in the world.

    And who knows what the future holds? Smalling has already been called up to the England squad in the past, and many see him as a possible successor for Rio Ferdinand at center back or as England's next great right back.

    Whatever happens, Smalling's talent will surely ensure that he reaches the highest heights of world football before his career is over.

Lionel Messi

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    Long before Lionel Messi established himself as the world's greatest player, there were doubts that he'd ever become a respected footballer, even in Argentina.

    At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency, and though Newell's Old Boys initially helped pay his £500-a-month medical expenses, it was eventually decided that the club could not afford the expense.

    Messi's condition turned away Argentinian giants River Plate, despite Messi's talent, and with Messi's family's modest background, it was feared that Messi would not receive the treatment he needed and that his career would never get off the ground.

    In stepped Barcelona, or more specifically Carlos Rexach, Barcelona's sport director at the time. After a trial was arranged, Rexach was quickly convinced of Messi's talent, and signed him to his first contract on the spot on the back of a napkin.

    And the rest is history. Barcelona's now-minor investment paid off numerous dividends, as they were able to sign the world's best player for nothing more than a few medical expenses.

Franck Ribery

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    As a player for Bayern Munich, Franck Ribery has matured into one of the world's best wingers; in fact, after Cristiano Ronaldo, most would consider Ribery to be the world's best winger.

    But at the start of his career, Ribery was not someone anyone thought would ever become one of the world's best players.

    Ribery came from low-income neighborhood in France, and at the age of two was involved in a car accident which required over 100 stitches and left two long scars on the right side of his face.

    Although Ribery joined Lille at the age of 13 and progressed well athletically, his academic and behavioral indiscipline led the club to release him at the age of 16.

    From then on, Ribery would bounce around the clubs of France's third division, the Championnat National. After four years of third-division play, and a period of construction work with his father, Ribery finally made it to Ligue 1 with Metz, and impressed with a new-found work ethic and top-class performances.

    These performances opened the door for a move to Galatasaray, Marseille and, finally, Bayern Munich.

    Ribery still suffers from occasional bouts of indiscipline (and sometimes complete stupidity), but for the most part, his talent and ability far overshadows whatever negative behaviors he may show from time to time.

Clint Dempsey

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    Clint Dempsey came from humble beginnings. The forward that smashed home the tying goal against England in the 2010 World Cup grew up in a small Texas town. 

    Dempsey was raised in a trailer park just by the Mexican border. He would learn the game of soccer on dirt fields with Mexican children that had a flair for the game. Dempsey almost missed out on a soccer academy as the family struggled to make ends meet. 

    Family and friends helped send him off, and it has paid dividends. He has developed into arguably the best American footballer in the world today, and has broken a number of records in the last couple of seasons.

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