Maniche on a magical mission to India

  • Maniche visited for the FIFA Foundation Community Programme

  • The FIFA Legend was impressed with the Magic Bus in Mumbai

  • Maniche reveals it was 'magical' to hear kids' stories

His clothes were wet through from the rain, but that didn’t bother the 11-year-old one bit as he stopped the ball, looked over his shoulder and beamed with delight as Maniche strolled over to him with arms outstretched and gave him a big hug.

“That moment reminded me of my own childhood and the difficulties I experienced, which pale into insignificance compared to what I’ve seen here, and I immediately felt the urge to help in any way I could, with tears streaming down my face,” said the former Portugal midfielder, who made the adidas Golden Ball shortlist at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™.

FIFA Legend Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro, better known as Maniche, was visibly moved when he dropped in on the Magic Bus organisation in Mumbai as part of the FIFA Foundation Community Programme.

“I’m impressed by the work that the organisation does both individually and collectively to help children living in poverty reach their full potential,” he said.

The FIFA Foundation Community Programme supports projects and organisations like the non-profit NGO Magic Bus that use football as a tool for social development and education. Working with communities and families, Magic Bus runs a programme that teaches life skills and resilience. Children are shown how to ward off the risk of being forced into child marriage or child labour so that they can complete their secondary education and go on to become first generation salary-earners.

“The visit was a real eye-opener for me, as we often take it for granted that society protects children’s rights,” added Maniche. “Thousands of kids in India have no access to education and can’t even write their own name. That’s why initiatives such as Magic Bus are so important.

“Education is one of the key drivers of social change. If a child can go to school, it sets in motion a virtuous circle that improves their life in so many ways.”

The heavy rain continued unabated, but the boy was keen to play and he released himself from Maniche, whose tears quickly gave way to a broad grin as he grabbed the ball and passed it to the youngster.

“It was magical to hear everyone’s individual story and to know that, when they are older, they will be able to make better decisions for themselves and as fully fledged members of society,” said Maniche.