WORLD Cup winning superstar soccer player Patrick Vieira said he was “honoured and privileged” to visit St Gabriel’s School in Limerick this Monday.
Vieira, a football development executive with Manchester City Football Club, with whom he finished his career as a soccer player, was joined by fellow former City player Paul Lake on the visit to the school for children with disabilities.
The duo brought the iconic FA Cup trophy to the school were they were greeted rapturously by the children, parents and staff of St Gabriel’s, who sang a rousing chorus of Man City anthem Blue Moon to welcome them to the Dooradoyle school.
After more than an hour of patiently signing autographs and posing for pictures, Vieira said it was “really difficult to find the words” to describe the reaction he received from the kids.
“When you are a footballer you are scoring goals and trying to win games but being here this morning is a different level,” he said.
“When you see the smiles of the kids that is priceless and as a football club it is really important for us to be close to the community,” he said.
Vieira and Lake were visiting St Gabriel’s as part of the City in the Community scheme run by the Manchester club, now in its 26th year. A decision was made to push the scheme into Ireland and the Limerick visit was organised in conjunction with the local branch of the City supporters club.
Vieira was visibly taken with the kids in St Gabriel’s, taking time to pose for individual pictures with each child.
“As a footballer you always feel like you are privileged and I am healthy and you see some of the kids here who are struggling to be honest and to spend a few hours and try to make them smile, make the parents smile, I think is to be something that we should do more,” he said.
“To be around today really puts things in their place, sometimes we take things for granted and being here at this school is fantastic. I met some lovely people who are dedicated and the job they are doing is unbelievable.”
Paul Lake thanked the staff in the school, saying it was a “real pleasure and an absolute privilege for myself and Patrick to be here today”.
Maire O’Leary, CEO of St Gabriel’s, said the visit “was amazing for the school and was a huge boost for the staff and the children”.
Vieira and Lake later attended coaching courses at Fairview Rangers soccer club in the city, featuring up to 80 children.
They also attended a supporters club dinner at the Carlton Castletroy Park, where they were staying while in Limerick.