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Yerry Mina: From earning £1.50 a day selling fruit to becoming a Premier League star

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Yerry Mina hung out of the back of lorries as a kid, earned £1.50 a day selling fruit and always vowed to do well enough to help his mum... now the Everton man is a Premier League starColombian defender Yerry Mina fought from the bottom to get where he is today The 24-year-old sealed a summer move from Barcelona to Marco Silva's Everton As a child Mina sold fruit, earning £1.50 per day, in order to feed his familyIn order to get to training, Mina jumped onto lorries which stopped at red lights He always vowed to do well enough in life to be able to build his mum a house 

Yerry Mina was 14 when he made a promise to his mum. The teenage Mina, his parents and his younger brother lived in Guachene, a small market town in Colombia. Not in a house, but in a single room.

His father, a former goalkeeper, was struggling for work. Mina’s grandmother sold fruit from a stall.

Yerry, named after the mouse in Tom and Jerry, delivered the produce to people’s homes on a bicycle his dad bought for him. From all those trips, Mina might make 6,000 pesos a day. Less than £1.50.

Towering defender Yerry Mina has become a force for Everton, but his life story is of struggle

‘I said, “Listen, Mum. I am going to build a house for you one day. I will provide a roof for you and make sure you will eat. You will be fed by the hand of God”,’ Mina recalls.

‘I just wanted her to know that in the future it would be better.’

His mother, Marianela, had started to cry. He continues: ‘She said, “Don’t worry, I am doing my best to try to keep you myself. We are getting by”. 

'It was a tough period for my family. From that day, wherever I travel to play football, before I go out I say, “Right, I am going to win my mum’s dinner. It is my mum’s dinner or the striker’s”. That is where my strength comes from. That childhood, in a tough place.’

It will be Troy Deeney in that battle on Monday when Everton take on Watford.

He was playing for his local team when he made that promise 10 years ago. A promising footballer, yes, but not the 6ft 5in colossus now at the heart of Everton’s defence.

Even then, he did what he could. He would give 4,000 of his 6,000 pesos to his mum each day. Another 1,000 would go to his younger brother to buy a ball or a doll. Mina would keep the last 1,000 to buy some water after training.

Mina is a family man and vowed from a young age to be able to provide for them in later life

‘I’d be happy with that,’ he says. ‘I will sacrifice myself for my parents, because what they have done for me is amazing. And I feel great because I am providing for my mum now.’

That happiness is the first thing that strikes you when you meet Mina. The bounce in his step as he says hello at Everton’s training ground at Finch Farm. The smile always on his face, even when talking about the toughest times in his life. It is that promise to his mum that has been his motivation ever since. It was his drive to progress from the children’s team in Guachene to Deportivo Pasto, his first professional side.

The family’s poverty, however, did not make it easy. Unable to afford a bus fare for the hour-long journey to training, Mina would wait for trucks to stop at red lights before jumping on to the back.

‘I would just be clinging on,’ he says. ‘When it was raining it was horrible. You’d get this cold rain in your face and you could slip. If my mum had known she would have never let me go!’

It’s a good thing he did go. Mina progressed to Santa Fe, Palmeiras and Barcelona where he became the first Colombian to play for the Catalan giants. He replaced Gerard Pique for his debut in the Copa del Rey semi-final. ‘Pique said to me, “You are going to go far in the game”,’ he recalls. ‘Those words, coming from him, still serve as motivation for me.’

In summer Mina sealed a move from Spanish giants Barcelona to Marco Silva's Everton

But it quickly became clear he was not in Barcelona’s plans. After a successful World Cup that saw Mina score three goals, including one against England, he secured a £28.5 million move to Everton. After missing the beginning of the season through a foot injury, Mina has started the last four Premier League games.

Anyone who has watched him will have seen a ferocious determination to win. Any cross into the box, Mina will bludgeon through whoever it takes to get it clear. There’s none of that infectious smile then.

‘A mask,’ he says. ‘I am very different as soon as I go over the white line. That is how it should be. There are no friends on the field. If I was playing against my dad I would dish it out to him as well.’

The grin is soon back. He smiles when he tells of the challenges he made with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in training — the ones he has now with Richarlison.

‘I say to Richarlison, “Score in two games running and I’ll give you one of my shirts”. He will say to me, “Keep a clean sheet for three games and I’ll take you out for dinner”. It gives a little extra spice to bring home more food for your family.’

It always comes back to that. To his family and his roots. He has set up the Yerry Mina Foundation in his hometown. ‘It is important for me to serve as an example to all the kids who are in that position now,’ he says.

The defender was recently tasked with keeping Mohamed Salah quiet in the Merseyside derby

For someone who has been through so much, how is that he never stops smiling?

‘In comparison to what my dad, my relatives, or the people who live in my town have gone through, it is not real suffering,’ he replies.

‘I think that whatever happens, nothing can erase the happiness you are born with and your ability to transmit that happiness and pass on your joy to other people…although sometimes I think I need to change!’

No, don’t change. Definitely don’t change.

Everton’s Premier League fixture against Watford will see the launch of ‘All Together Now’, the club’s campaign to celebrate and promote positive equality and diversity for all.

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