By Ricardo Moraes
What would people say if I told them that I met a footless boy who plays football? (Of course, since I’m talking about Brazil, football is really soccer.) I don’t think even my family or closest friends would believe me. Luckily, I’m a photographer and can show them. The beautiful part of this story is not just that Gabriel plays football without feet, but that he plays incredibly well.
Gabriel Muniz, an 11-year-old boy born with malformed feet, grew up like most Brazilian children with a soccer ball by his side.
Gabriel became famous after he was featured on a TV sports program. Those scenes of him demonstrating great skill with the ball hadn’t left my mind, so I was excited about the opportunity to photograph him. But while on the road to Campos do Goytacazes, where Gabriel lives, I kept thinking that maybe the TV show had been overproduced and that he couldn’t really be THAT good.
We reached the city a day ahead of schedule and passed by Gabriel’s school where we spotted him playing soccer with friends. From there we went to his home where his mother agreed to see us even though we were a day early. Gabriel eventually arrived home after school and greeted us shyly, but by the time he did his homework, played video games, and had a snack, it was too late for him to play soccer for us.
The next day we returned before he awoke, and followed his first steps of the day. His mother gave him prostheses to wear, which surprised us, but she said he should go to school with them on.