Francesc Fabregas Soler was born on May 4, 1987, in the pretty port of Arenys de Mar, a town more famous for its turnip festival than its footballers. He was the first child of Nuria Soler, a caterer, who is now the director of a sales company and Francesc Fabregas Sr, a bricklayer, who now runs his own construction business.
If Cesc had not grown up to be a football player for a living, he might well be wearing a hard hat. Cesc has said of his father’s company, “It’s a family business, my grandad had it, my great grandad. The year before I came to Arsenal, I wanted to go and help my dad and if I wasn’t a player I’d be doing what my friends do, working with their parents, trying to get money any way they can.”
Cesc recalled in an interview with Arsenal TV online that his father was still young when he was born and enjoyed playing football. Young Cesc attended his father’s matches but he did not see his father play, he was too busy playing with the other children.
His father was his first football coach and Cesc said he always encouraged him and believed in him, but that he never pressured him. Cesc said,”He wasn’t one of those dads who goes crazy with their sons, saying, ‘You have to be a footballer’.”
Cesc, when asked what his first football memory was, replied, “I would have been 6 or 7 years old. I was in a tournament between three schools of Arenys: el Maragall, Cassa and La Presentacio. I went with this team. That was my first playoff, or championship game, with all the parents looking on in the Arenys pavilion, which no longer exists. I have the videotape recorded by my mother of when my father gave me the shirt, socks, shorts to wear. I was the happiest child in the world. I scored 3 goals. We won 3-2 and then 2-1. It was an unforgettable memory. Later I started football at seven. With 8 or 9 year olds coordinating already with the big football. With the school I played Saturdays at 12 and 4, with ‘small fry’ A team of Arenys. It was a complete weekend. Tired? Never. I was doing what I like most!”
Cesc was 10 years old when he first realized he might have a future in professional football he recalls, “I was playing for a little town next to mine and I was lucky to be playing in the same league as Barcelona on that day and they came to see me – I also played against them as well a few times – and they called my family, my parents and we decided too go for a try out with Barcelona and they took me.”
At first he would train once a week at the Barcelona FC Youth Academy ‘La Cantera’ and the rest of the week in Mataro
It made for a demanding schedule. Cesc said, “When I went to Mataro, although I trained with the “small fry” A team of the Barca. I hurried, rushed from school at 5pm because a taxi came to collect me and the other kids of the Maresme. At 7pm we trained and we did not get home until 11pm. We also had to have dinner and do home work. So it was for five years until during my last year as a cadet I lodged at La Masia. They were the best years of my life.”
In an interview that aired on Cuatro his parents told of Cesc’s natural affinity for football. They said that since he started to walk it had been obvious, you could tell, all he wanted was the ball… They also found that when it came to giving young Cesc presents nothing but items in the football line would do. They tried everything else, Playmobil toys etc, but Cesc was not having a bar of it. However, they found that they could usually solve their gift-giving headaches with a trip to the Barca store. The Barca kit was a favorite.
His mother also recalled how Cesc even at 8 and 9 years of age would go to bed early the night before matches and would watch his diet. If it was suggested that they have dinner at McDonalds on a Friday night, Cesc would refuse! He only wanted soup, fish, fruit etc and for a child of only 8 or 9 this was an unusual attitude!
Cesc is a lifelong supporter of FC Barcelona, he first went to the stadium when he was nine months old, with his grandad. He even lived at Barca’s ground, leaving home at 14 to move to the dormitory inside the stadium complex that houses youth academy players.
Amongst his fellow cadets in the youth academy was, Lionel Messi. Cesc and Lionel complemented each other well. “We won everything together in our age group and we used to love playing one-twos on the pitch. We had a great understanding,” recalls Cesc. “He made a big impression on me, but he was very shy and that complicated his integration,” said Cesc. “We thought he was dumb. Until, being kids and thanks to Play Station, we discovered he could talk.”
“It was great to play for Barcelona,” Cesc reminisces, “but when we played it was 30-0. What’s the point? I need to have competition. From when I was in the under-13s we started winning by 15 goals and I was thinking about leaving. If the coaches can see you’re better than the opposition, why don’t they let you play against a higher age group? I almost went to Espanyol but the president said, ‘Let’s try and find a solution’. I stayed but then Arsenal came and I knew it was the chance of a lifetime.
The first time I came to London I saw the facilities. I talked to the boss, they treated me as if I was an adult, a big player. I had the feeling something special could happen for me here.”
He adds: â€˜I talked to a lot of people, all my family, especially, and people here, too, and we thought it was the best decision. I was 16. At Barcelona, I was captaining the Under-16s. Here, they gave me the opportunity to play for the reserves straight away, soon the Carling Cup. It gave me the motivation that I needed.
Fabregas had been placed on Wenger’s radar by his man in Iberia, former Arsenal youth player Francis Cagigao, and tracked closely after a starring performance for Spain versus England Under-16s in 2002. Steve Rowley, Arsenal’s chief scout, put in the groundwork with Cesc and his family.