Gabrielito is a child like the others. He plays soccer every afternoon with his friends, rides his bike, has fun in the pool and with his antics fills his beautiful home with joy. The only thing that differentiates him from the others is that his left leg is missing, the result of an amputation, after suffering from cancer. But that has not prevented him from doing the same activities typical of his age.
Well, there is another difference with the other children: he also trains like a professional in one of the seven teams of the national Amputee Soccer championship. With his skills, he has earned the affection of his teammates and the admiration of experts in the field. So much so, that just under two years ago he participated in a soccer camp for children of the same condition in Germany.
Recently, on the Day of Zero Discrimination, celebrated at the beginning of the month, the European Football Union (UEFA) published some tribute photos of this commemoration on its page. In one of them, he highlighted the Costa Rican child – in full action during the camp – as one of the examples that anyone can play soccer in a safe and pleasant environment, regardless of age, race, gender or ability.
An example for all
With his 9 years, Gabriel has become an exemplary person for those around him. His mother, Juanita González, of course, is especially proud of his ability and attitude towards life. “Gabriel is an example of life, he continues to fight, he is a happy child, despite living without having his little leg,” says the mother.
The boy was diagnosed with cancer of the left femur in 2017, and in October his leg had to be amputated. He then went through nine months of chemotherapy. Despite all this process, Gabriel endured it well and always found moments of joy in the midst of so much sadness and difficulties.
His own mother had to sacrifice herself asking for permission from work to take her son to chemotherapy sessions and be able to care for him at home. However, she had to go back to work because they are financially dependent on that income.
A special occasion
At the beginning of 2019, having recovered from treatment, Dona Juanita learned of the existence of the amputee soccer program and decided to take Gabriel. That day was magical. Gabriel’s eyes shone again and he discovered a discipline in which he could go back to practicing the sport he loved so much.
Jhanny Flores and Harold Villalobos, forerunners of amputee soccer, saw his conditions and quickly invited him to be part of the discipline of one of the teams, Club Morado, which is currently the Curridabat amputee soccer team.
They also told him about a camp that would be held in Germany that year for amputee footballers. Thanks to the support of sponsors, Gabriel was able to travel together with four other children and have that unforgettable experience.
From all the world
There he shared with young people from Holland, France, Japan, Italy, Spain and many other countries. What he learned has served him well in his experience with the team. “He is one of the most disciplined children I have ever seen. He trains with adults because in Costa Rica there is no league for children.
“He does the activities that other people do, with no difference because he is a child, but he adapts to the work that is done every day,” said Christian Alfaro, coach of the Curridabat Soccer Amputated team.
“Gabrielito is a scorer, at the present moment, he cannot play directly in the league because he of his age. The regulation establishes that you must be 16 years old to be registered. However, he can play exhibition matches and training groups, where he is one of the team’s scorers, despite his young age”, said the coach.
Adding, “He doesn’t miss any training, even if that means a sacrifice for Gabriel and his mother. The important thing is continuing to enjoy an activity that makes him very happy. He sometimes cries. And I tell him that the world is not going to stop because his little leg is missing. The world goes on, but to go ahead and do more with the ability to move on, as his mother tells him”.
No stopping by obstacles
Such is his skill, that nothing seems to be an obstacle for the young Gabriel. He can even ride a bike. Off the field, Gabriel reveals his shyness. But more than with his words, his attitude reveals that he wants to go far in this sport. He wants to study English, because he knows that one day it will be needed to communicate with other footballers when going out again to represent our country. Hopefully this time it will be wearing the colors of the National Team.
The Curridabat amputee soccer team, which welcomes little Gabriel into its ranks, is a team made up of players of all ages. Amputee soccer is played on a 60 x 70 field, and matches are played in two 25-minute periods, with a 10-minute break. Each team has six outfield players, who do not have at least one of their lower limbs and must play with crutches.
There is also a goalkeeper playing, who cannot have one of his upper limbs. There is no substitution limit, and players can come and go as required by the coach. For this reason, it is a question of the majority of the players being able to participate in the matches.
“Many of the team members leave behind their day-to-day problems when they go out to train. It is very important for them, because they go through difficult times, they fall into depression. Sport is a shield for them, and that’s why we don’t close the door to anyone, no matter how old they are,” Alfaro said.
The team trains in Curridabat, waiting for the start of the championship to be authorized. The strategist added that the team has the support of several sponsors and they hope to close an agreement with Costa Rica Azul soon, with which they hope to add more support that will allow these people to continue practicing what they are passionate about.