Footless boy, 11, gets call to train with Barcelona

Brazil - Playing football with no feet? No way.

Anyone who hasn't seen Brazilion wunderkind Gabriel Muniz might write it off as impossible.

Born in Campos dos Goytacazes, a city located 170 miles north-east of Rio, Gabriel was born with no feet.

While reports do not state what caused his medical condition, it could be possibly due to congenital amputation, where a child is born without a limb or part of it.

But that hasn't stopped the 11-year-old from achieving his dream to become a professional football player.

His family was too poor to pay for treatment, but to their surprise, Gabriel began walking before he even reached a year old.

His mother told The Sun UK that the family would follow him, worried that he would fall. "But he never did," said his mother Sandra.

Today he is one of the best players at his school and the captain of his gym class at Campos dos Goytacazes..

He is so good that he's been invited by FC Barcelona to join their summer training camp.

The offer came after a video of his showing off his skills in a team of regular boys was uploaded onto the Internet. The video caught the attention of Barcelona bosses who were amazed by his remarkable skills and spirit.

His story and impressive footwork wowed the Spanish club so much that invited him to travel to Barcelona's academy to showcase his skills and meet his idol, Barça soccer player Lionel Messi.

The football club offered to pay for Gabriel to be flown from Brazil to Spain - a dream for Gabriel, who says his ideal team consists of himself and several other Barcelona players such as Messi, Dani Alves, David Villa and Andrés Iniesta.

Remarkable skills

Remarkable skills

"When he arrived there (the Barcelona academy in Saquarema), no one believed in him. But he proved to everyone there, he can go head-to-head with any other boy," said his physical education teacher Mr Jose Lopes.

Originally offered a place at the team's training academy in Saquarema, he has now been invited to the team's Spanish camp in September, BBC reported.

His family is thrilled at the opportunity and his coach believes Gabriel may be opening more doors for others with disabilities.

"The disability only exists inside our heads and he is proving it to everyone; he is challenging the social norms," Mr Lopes said.

As many as one out of every 2,000 babies is born without a limb or body-part at birth.

Congenital amputation, has no single cause. One common cause is amniotic band syndrome, where the inner fetal membrane ruptures and gets entangled around the fetus. The fibrous bands of the membrane can get wrapped around the limbs of the fetus, constricting the blood supply and leading to an accidental amputation in the womb.

Last year, Gabriel received a donated foot-ankle prosthesis, but opts to discard them when he plays football.

Paralympic dreams

Paralympic dreams

Playing against able-bodied boys often twice his size, he can run, dribble, pass and strke the ball as well as any of them.

Speaking in a Sun UK interview, his best friend Lucas Santos spoke of Gabriel's remarkable skills. "He goes after it (the ball), he is fearless and he knows how to organise plays. He also makes good passes," he said.

Besides playing football, Gabriel is also an adept cyclist, being able to cycle to school every morning with his elder brother Mateus.

However, his first love remains football, and he prefers to spend his spare time on the football pitch rather than on homework and household chores.

Despite being born with malformation of his feet, fourth grader Gabriel puts in hours into soccer everyday in his neighbourhood. 

Although he may never play professionally alongside the Barcelona stars, he may one day get to play in the Paralympics.

"To this day there isn't a Paralympics 11-a-side football team, but Gabriel is showing this will have to change, because he wants to play 11-a-side football," said Mr Lopes.

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