Bouncing a football on his knee and shooting it across the stage to another young footballer, Gabriel Muniz didn’t let the fact that he was born without feet keep him from playing football.
The 13-year-old Brazilian was born with a limb deficiency which left him without the soles of his feet and missing some of his fingers, but that didn’t prevent Muniz from starting to play for his school’s soccer team when he turned eight in Rio De Janeiro. In 2012, he was invited to a one-week youth football camp with Barcelona FC, playing with other boys his age, attracting international media attention.
Watch: Footage of Gabriel Muniz playing soccer
He hopes to become a “great football player”, to play for the Clube De Regats do Flamengo – one of the top Brazilian football clubs based in Rio – and to eventually to play for Brazil’s national team, too.
“He plays well and is definitely talented,” said Cristiano Cordeiro, who played football professionally in Hong Kong from 1998 until two years ago, when he retired as coach of Eastern. Cordeiro, 40, said that professional athletes have less support in Hong Kong than in his native Brazil – and the city is especially lacking in programmes for professionals after they retire. “There is little choice. Most kids concentrate on school, get into university so they can get a better job.”
Being a professional athlete is nearly impossible, and it’s even harder for those with disabilities,” Cordeiro said.
Muniz will be playing in a three-a-side showcase match in Hang Hau on June 2 to help promote the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.