Meet Sonny Pike who was once dubbed as the new Diego Maradona but is now a taxi driver after the FA banned him

Sonny Pike was known as the next Maradona as a child
Sonny Pike was known as the next Maradona as a child

Sonny Pike was the biggest child prodigy of the 1990s, so much so that he was regarded as the next Diego Maradona.

Before the likes of Lionel Messi ever kicked a ball professionally, Pike was compared to greats Maradona and George Best despite only being 12 years old. The English kid idolized Paul Gascoigne and dreamt of becoming a Premier League star, and he had it all going for him.

Aged just 12, Pike had caught the eyes of top sides with his performances for Sunday League team Enfield FC. He scored over 100 goals in a single season and was subsequently invited for a trial by Ajax. Pike's exploits made him a child celebrity, with cameras following his every move and sponsorship deals flowing in.

Despite not being a professional, Pike had a boot deal with Mizuno and worked with McDonald's and Coca-Cola as well. His legs were insured for £1m and he was on the path to superstardom before everything came crashing down.

At 14 years of age, he became a target for jealous parents, who urged their kids to deliberately hurt him in matches. He also had to deal with the pressure on him from outsiders, and his father unknowingly blew up his career.

Sonny's father, Mickey, convinced him to appear in a documentary produced by Greg Pyke called 'Coaching and Poaching'. The documentary exposed that Chelsea were tapping him up illegally, and caused the FA to issue a one-year ban on him.

His extraordinary talent also caused his parents' 22-year-old marriage to hit the rocks. While his father pushed for him to become a legitimate star rapidly, his mother wanted a normal childhood for him.

After his ban, Sonny Pike found it difficult to play football as he had fallen out of love with the game.

"I pretty-much had a mental breakdown on the pitch. I came on for 15 minutes, I was given the opportunity and I just walked off," he said.

At 17, Pike became suicidal and wanted to leave football behind. He had one final trial at Grimsby Town aged 18 before he decided he was done with football and left the game behind.

What did Sonny Pike do after football?

Sonny Pike went under the radar for years, during which he learned carpentry and started a family. He now also drives a black cab in London six days a week.

The 40-year-old has lost his interest in football but still organizes coaching sessions for kids. He especially focuses on the off-the-pitch aspect to prevent them from suffering the same fate as him.

Sonny Pike has a wife and two children and is an advocate for children being allowed to develop at their own pace. He lost his family as a child, and this has made him determined to be a better father to his children.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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