Paulo Dybala is a name familiar to almost all football fans. For the last five years the Argentine, has been tearing up Serie A with Juventus, carving a reputation as one of the world’s most exciting attackers thanks to his creative style of play and eye for goal. But that’s only one side of the Dybala coin. On the flip side is a man who has a passion for the environment and who has an inherent desire to help others.

The famous “gladiator mask” goal celebration is an interesting choice from Dybala, for while he is often captured in the limelight, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rihanna, the personal side of the superstar is not one that is overly publicised. And so, lifting away the “mask” of the player, we chatted with Dybala to get to know more about his overall mindset, his exploits away from the pitch, and his eco-focused beliefs.

Let’s start by discussing your mindset. How would you describe your personality?

I think I have always been a very laid-back person. Of course, depending on different aspects and things, you start to change and develop your personality. But I always consider myself a low-profile person, regardless of any media attention I might get due to my profession.

You’ve actively joined organisations such as Common Goal and the King Children project. When did you first start to think about how you can use your profile for good?

When I was younger I did not have the opportunity to do things like this but my family always taught me to help others and to be supportive. Now, as a football player with a lot of media exposure, my voice can be stronger and more influential. I think footballers should set an example and send messages to the younger generations who are the ones that will be able to change the world. My team mates and I are able to represent strong values to a lot people through associations like Common Goal and King Children – I think it’s a beautiful thing.

You’re working on special project with ‘King Children’ that’s focused on zero-waste performance sunglasses made from sustainable materials. Can you tell us about how this collaboration came to be?

When King Children presented the project and we had the opportunity to work together, the idea of starting from scratch and being involved in the whole production process – from the logo, to learning how the sunglasses are created using 3D printing – was something I really liked, and of course, creating everything with zero-waste and pollution. A lot of people may not know, but manufacturing sunglasses creates a lot of waste. I am very enthusiastic about being involved in the project.

Embracing the Zero Waste Movement, can you explain what this means to you?

It’s like I’ve been saying, it is about conveying a strong message. I think that young people, teenagers, see the world in a very different way in terms of everything that is happening around the world. I think that, with social media, awareness of how many companies pollute the environment has improved. Teenagers are trying to change that and I want to show them that you can do very fun projects that can help change the world.

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I think footballers should set an example and send messages to the younger generations who are the ones that will be able to change the world”

 What have you learned about the sunglasses themselves?

I had the chance to test the prototypes, to see the colours and understand how each colour can mean one thing or another. For example, red glasses can help you focus and concentrate on your work. When I go to the stadium, I’ll wear glasses with red lenses, and when the match is over, I’ll wear the glasses with blue lenses because they help you to relax.

How important is your own personal style for you?

I like it, I like it. I always try to look good but I am not thinking about what to wear 24/7. Sometimes I like to change and try new things, but I do not force anything. I try to be as natural as possible – I try to be myself. I think it’s important to have your own image though, because I think the way you dress and how you express yourself says a lot about you. I think it’s very important as an individual.

Your tattoos are another form of expression, right?

Yes, all my tattoos are meaningful. The tattoo on my arm is very significant to me because people associate it with me a lot. Lots of people approach me or send me pictures saying they got the same tattoo after they saw it. But I just saw it, liked it, and got it. It was not for any other reason!

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How would you describe the journey to where you’ve are now in your career?

To be honest, I never imagined getting to where I am today. We often get used to the place we live in, the social circle around us, and we often do not realise where we are. I am from a town of 7,000 people and I did not know anything about the world until I started to travel.

Thanks to football, I had the chance to meet new people, learn languages, see cities, travel by plane. Those things seem simple and natural now, but in the beginning I never would have imagined it. And today, I get to be here. It all happened so fast but I’ve now been in Italy for almost ten years, and that is a lot. When I look back, I see that sometimes things go well and other times they do not, but everything teaches you something. Everything offers you an opportunity to learn. And when I think about it, I am only 26 years old and I have a lot ahead of me.

With all of the experiences you’ve had, you had to grow up fast, right?

Yes, and I noticed that when I was 21 or 22. I would get back together with my lifelong friends and I found myself feeling a bit older, or like I had another mentality because of all the things I had gone through.

At that age I had already travelled around the world with Juventus and seen a lot of new things. That was a real source of inspiration. It taught me not to fear new things. A lot of times, people from a small town are afraid of leaving, they are afraid of missing home, afraid that the uncertainty will not go away. That is normal, I missed home too when I was in Cordoba City and I was just half an hour away from home! It’s all part of the sacrifice though. So, yeah, like I said before, I have changed a lot and I see myself differently to how I did nine years back.

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Good people are often surrounded by good people. Has having the right people around you been important for your mindset?

I’ve always tried to have small groups of people around me. Obviously, over time you meet new people, you learn new things, and that is normal. Sometimes we think we are with the people who are going to be there with us for the rest of our football career, or the rest of our lives, and we are often wrong. I think those are experiences we have to go through. Thanks to my experiences I feel a lot more prepared for life and football.

In comparison to nine years ago I think I’ve changed a lot in the way I am, the way I think and the way I see things, but I don’t think I changed my circle much. The people I am with and the people I talk to are still practically the same group of people.

Is there a person who really means a lot to you, who is there for you, who influences you, but who may not get the recognition?

I think a lot of people have helped me grow. Of course, my family has always been there for me, physically and spiritually. My mother had an essential role in my life, as well as my father.

We lost him when I was young, but I think my mother knew how to take charge of the situation. A situation like that is not easy. She is one of the most important people in my life because of everything she has done; not just for me, but for my brothers, my family.

Where do you get your motivation from? The energy to keep growing, as you say.

My motivation has always been football. I got the passion from my brothers and I love the sport so much that I always give it my all. When you are young, you don’t know what can happen. For every player that makes it, there are another twenty who do not.

There is obviously the inspiration you get from growing; it carries you as you mature. Your mindset evolves, you want new things. I always set new goals year after year. It is not like I have a goal for the next ten years. My goal this year is to achieve everything I wanted to this year and the next. I will see what has changed or what has not.

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What differences do you see in the game today compared to when you first started playing?

Year after year, something always changes. When you are playing for decades, you see very big changes. Not just changed in the rules, but how the game is played on the field. The speed at which we play today is totally different, and I think the goal average has gone up too. Everything changes. Soccer is very physical nowadays. All teams are physically prepared in different ways. I think football has turned into something else, physically.

I think that playing without a crowd this year has also changed soccer a lot. Matches are totally different. I think the pressure on players is totally different. A lot of players that feel the pressure of the crowd feel more relaxed now and I think they can play better. I think there are also players that need that adrenaline from the crowd, the pressure, and all those things, so they can be alert, so they can stay focused on the field. I think all of that changed too. But yes, in comparison to what it was like ten years ago, football is totally different now.

How do you deal with the pressures and expectations that come with fame and social media?

Players are very exposed nowadays, that is clear. Not just because of social media but everything that revolves around us. Sometimes we have not done anything, but we are exposed for things we have not done. But, like I said, I think you have to know how to use social media platforms for good causes and convey positive messages. We should all be able to express ourselves genuinely without being judged. I think that is the most important thing. We all have different points of view, we could be wrong sometimes, but we all see things in our own way. Like I was saying, I always try to be myself. I try not to sell an image that is not mine just to please someone else, or please people in general. If I do not feel represented in something, I do not do it.

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See the work Dybala is doing with King Children here.