- Germany's U-17 side visited the Agnel Ashram children's village in Goa
- The Europeans were greeted by enthusiast youngsters during their visit
- The German FA made a donation to support the local social project
As the large team bus carrying Germany’s U-17 national team pulled into the car park, the eyes of the young Indian children waiting to meet them grew wide with excitement. When its doors opened, the 21 up-and-coming footballers emerging from the bus were almost overwhelmed by the heartfelt welcome they received.
Aged between seven and 18, the children of the Agnel Ashram – which means ‘the house where peace can be found’ in English – children’s village in Goa proudly and excitedly presented each of their visitors with a traditional welcome gift of a floral wreath and gave them a tika – a red dot on their brow that signifies the Hindu sign of blessing.
The young German footballers clapped along with the music when the children and village director Father Victor Rebello performed a song of greeting for the team. “The moment when the children sang for us was very special,” a clearly captivated Luca Plogmann told FIFA.com. “They’ve given us such a moving and warm welcome.”
"We have 22 houses here, each of which allows us to accommodate up to ten children, and each house has a ‘mother’,” Father Rebello explained. “All of the kids come from very poor families and most of them have lost one or both parents. We give them a new home here.”
The German Football Association (DFB) presented the organisation with a donation of more than €2,000 to support this social project, as well as several footballs and other souvenirs. As a self-confessed fan of world champions Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil, ten-year-old Steven could hardly contain his excitement when Germany’s young players invited him to take part in football matches on the village’s pitch – and it was clear that both parties enjoyed this part of the visit. “It’s great to do something like this,” said John Yeboah, his brow shining with sweat after a particularly energetic game. “Seeing how much fun the kids enjoy playing a game with us makes me happy.”
Watching his charges during their unofficial friendly, coach Christian Wuck said: “Coming here makes you realise just how easy we have it in Germany. You realise how grateful you should be for so many things that perhaps we occasionally take for granted. Hopefully, the lads will come away from this experience feeling slightly humbled,” he added, before jokingly telling Yeboah to start defending more rather than just hanging around up front.
It was clear from the sight of Germany’s players adorned with flower garlands, posing for selfies with the children or sharing a joke or a hug with the smallest participants, that new friendships were forged on this visit, while the event also illustrated football’s power to bring people together. “Seeing these kids teaches you to be grateful,” goalkeeper Plogmann said on the way back to the hotel on the team bus. “It was great to be able to put smiles on their faces.”
As well as humility and gratitude, Yeboah took something else away from the visit: a new nickname. The children christened their new favourite footballer ‘Neymar’ in honour of his silky skills, a moniker his amused team-mates were only too happy to adopt. While it remains to be seen whether Father Rebello will get his wish for the team to return for another visit as U-17 world champions, one thing is certain – around 150 of their youngest and newest fans have their fingers firmly crossed.