The half-Italian man whose “transformation” into the golfing star Federico Alba made headlines across the world said that the episode came out of nowhere.
Alba has been subject to a startling transformation since being cast in a reality television show in Sicily a few years ago. The high school dropout turned professional after the show, and his father, Pisan, had been a regional football manager. Alba won twice at the European Tour School in 2014.
A FoxSports report from 2014, which has become a template for social media attention about his turnaround, referred to Alba, 25, who speaks only limited English, as “transformed”.
Nicola Agostini (@nicola_agostini) Philippos, from Naples, on his way to historic play F.Alba, a boy from Siciliana. pic.twitter.com/3g8m2gGtNJ
But Alba said his family life was just as much a part of the show, and that being shown that his uncle, the still unheralded player Diego Falcone, had financed him helped him understand where he was coming from.
“I grew up the poorest person in the neighborhood. So often in those years I would hear my father shouting, ‘Pisan, Pisan, get the kid to school!’” Alba said on Thursday, speaking through a translator in the Washington DC offices of Channel Five.
He said an avid amateur on the course and one friend with a social media presence helped convince him that people cared. “The moment they published the story that my dad was financing me professionally, my mind was opened,” he said.
“Suddenly, something happened in my head that changed. They saw me and they saw the son of my father. All of a sudden they saw that there was hope.”
After starting out at age 13, Alba’s round of golf with his father was his first professional tournament, and the family bus drove him to the course. He walked on the course until he tired, and paid off the fine with money he earned at a dance.
The network broadcast an episode in 2015 in which he was recorded addressing youth participation in football.
“We’re not going to treat people like a statue, and not encourage kids to think that if they can’t make it, they should just drop out,” he said.
Then there is social media attention. He has been criticised for that as well as the fact that he is a former drug addict. Alba said that his father had paid for his stint in rehab in the Philippines.
But he said he needed to keep living a normal life.
“Being open to cameras and being public about what life has been like for us, I would want to continue that,” he said. “I think that was a strategy that was very helpful for my family and I in a way that was very simple and accessible. I think I can really share my story with others in a way that people can relate to.”