Marquinho mesmerising on Messi’s pathway

  • Crohn’s disease hasn’t stopped Marquinho from wowing at football

  • The undersized eight-year-old’s inspiration is Lionel Messi

  • He appeared alongside Serge Gnabry on a German TV show

“When he has an episode, he’s in agony,” Felipe told of his eight-year-old son. “He goes to the bathroom repeatedly. Overnight, he’ll wake up and have to go, say, four times and stay for a long time there. His intestines inflame from inside and his diarrhoea has blood in it.

“Last year he suffered so many episodes. He was in the hospital a lot. It was really tough.”

Crohn’s disease frequently begins to torture people when they are between the ages of 15 and 30. Poor Marquinho has had it since he was five months old. There’s something, though, that keeps a smile on this remarkable Brazilian boy’s face: the beautiful game.

“I’ve loved football since I was two years old,” Marquinho told

Merely three years later and his extraordinary keepy-uppie skills catapulted him into the spotlight. His family were watching Domingão do Faustão – an uber-popular television programme – at his great-grandmother’s house. One of the segments asked for viewers to send in a 30-second clip demonstrating a talent.

“I urged Marquinho to do keepy-ups,” Felipe recalled, “but he said he couldn’t keep the ball up for 30 seconds. I insisted he could, so we went on the driveway, he did them, we sent in the video and he got invited on to the show.

“Marquinho was really excited. He was waiting backstage to go out and ball-juggle, but then they came and told us that another segment had overrun and there was no time for him to perform. He was really disappointed.”

It wasn’t to be the end of Marquinho’s chance of TV exposure. Felipe began posting clips of his son ball-juggling on social media. They shook the internet. One witness was the son of German television presenter Kai Pflaume, who told his dad he had to get this Brazilian sensation on his show.

“We got flown to Germany, we spent about six days there,” Felipe explained. “Kai was really nice. They had Marquinho perform with Serge Gnabry. Gnabry couldn’t have been nicer to us – what a really nice guy. It was a dream for Marquinho to go to Germany and perform with Gnabry.”

The Americana, Sao Paulo native has more footballing dreams.

“My dream is to meet Messi and Neymar and to become a footballer,” said the kid who turns nine next month. “I’d love to play for Barcelona.”

Marquinho is on the right track. He boasts around 250,000 followers on Instagram and is on the books of Magnus Sorocaba, the reigning futsal world champions popularised by the incomparable Falcao.

“I’ve met Falcao and he was really nice,” he said. “Falcao and Messi are inspirations to me.”

The latter for a special reason. Lionel Messi had to self-inject during his childhood to combat a growth hormone deficiency. One of the drugs Marquinho takes to combat Crohn’s stunts his growth and means he’s merely 1.12 metres tall – much shorter than his opponents on pitches and courts.

“I’ve never been intimidated playing against bigger boys,” he said. “Messi does it.”

Messi may be his inspiration, but Marquinho is an immense inspiration to children and adults across the globe. Size, Crohn’s… it will take a lot more to stop this extraordinary genius from realising his fantasies.