'I could have joined a gang and sold drugs' – Adama Traore opens up on tough Barcelona childhood

Wolves star Adama Traore has opened up on the difficulties he faced as the child of immigrant parents growing up in Barcelona, revealing that he was approached several times by street gangs attempting to recruit him to sell drugs and take part in other illegal activities.

Adama's father moved to l'Hospitalet from Mali in his mid-20s in search of a better life, working for a few years to get settled before his wife joined him to raise a family in Catalunya.

Born in Barcelona and raised in Bloques de la Florida, an area that is far from affluent and comprised predominantly of immigrants and gypsies, the 24-year-old was never far from danger despite his parents wanting the best for their kids.

Indeed, Adama's life could have gone very differently had he not had the required focus to succeed as a professional footballer.

“Yes, a lot of times,” the winger told AS when asked if gangs had tried to recruit him. “Me, my brother, a Dominican friend, everyone. At that time, being part of a gang was something that made you popular.

“But we had a different mentality. We wanted to be footballers, not part of some gang. You saw fights almost every day and we didn't want to fight. 

“Of course, I was in fights [anyway]. There were gangs in the school I went to. They fought each other constantly. I saw guns, fights with bats, knives, bottles... everything.

“They've done a great job in Hospitalet now though and everything is a lot calmer.”

Adama Traore Fred

Plenty of other talented young footballers growing up around Adama could have followed the same path, but it was all too easy for impressionable young minds to get caught up in making fast cash.

“A lot of them [quit football to join a gang],” he went on. “I've played with and against them in los Bloques and they were incredible. But they stopped to sell drugs, to join gangs or because of relationships.

“The gangs controlled different areas. Depending on where you were going they'd ask: 'What gang are you in? Where do you live? Why are you here?'. If they didn't know you, or even if you didn't have any problems, it could still become an issue.

“So then some people would get angry and join a rival gang. That happened a lot. That's why it's so complicated and you need to know what you want, to remain focused on that. 

“Wherever you come from, even if it's a rough neighbourhood, there are always good people who know what they want to do. The most important thing is to make the decision quickly. For example, in a fight, you need to decide quickly whether you want to follow the same path.

“You see the fights, how they work, how a gang operates, or how the police investigate the gangs, how the streets work, how they move drugs. If you want to do it illegally, it's there, and you can get those things easier.”