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Worldcrunch

The New Pistorius? 11-Year-Old Footless Football Star Scouted By Barcelona

THE TELEGRAPH, THE GUARDIAN (UK), LA TIMES (US)

Worldcrunch

An 11-year-old Brazilian boy born without feet has been invited to train at FC Barcelona's youth academy.

After impressing the Spanish football club during a TV appearance on Brazil's TV Globo, the young whiz kid will travel to the Catalonian capital in September.

The Telegraph reports that Muniz wears prosthetic feet but discards them when he plays football, undeterred by players twice his size.

Jose Lopes, Muniz's sports teacher at school, said: "The disability only exists inside our heads and he is proving it to everyone; he is challenging the social norms. To this day there isn't a Paralympics 11-a-side football team, but Gabriel is showing this will have to change, because he wants to play 11-a-side football."

With the Paralympics officially underway in London after Wednesday's opening ceremony, many are hoping misapprehensions regarding disabled sportspeople will change.

South African Oscar Pistorius, who made history two weeks ago when he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympic Games, spoke to reporters on Tuesday about these changing social norms: "I believe this Paralympic Games is going to change many people's perceptions not just about Paralympic sport, but about people living with disabilities. It is going to completely change people's mindsets.

"There are a lot of people here that don't focus on the disability any more, they focus on the athletes' ability," he said in the Guardian.

Both Muniz and Pistorius open up the debate on fair-play and the right to compete against non-handicapped persons. Pistorius' prosthetic legs sparked controversy before the Olympic Games, with detractors saying they gave the South African an unfair advantage.

Harvey Shapiro, a physician writing in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, said: "Pistorius has become, perhaps by design, an advocate for all disabled athletes. He has challenged an unprepared sports establishment to equip itself with the appropriate science to establish and enforce widely applicable guidelines governing prosthetic devices."

Pistorius made it to the 400-meter semi-final in London and will be competing in four events at the Paralympics, running in the 100m, 200m, 400m and in the 4x100m relay.

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