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'I've got lots of opportunities for the future'

19 May 2017
United and Maria

Under-16 striker Maria explains how she discovered football with the Manchester United Foundation and ended up joining the club

When Maria left Portugal with her family, she had never kicked a ball and had to learn a new language.

"I moved to the UK when I was 10 years old and I couldn't speak any English at all," she says. "I had never played football before.

"My life was really different in Portugal. I had started doing athletics as my uncle was friends with a running coach.

"There weren't really any footballing opportunities in Portugal for girls like there are here."

Although Maria says the move "changed her life for the better", it was more difficult for her family. 

"For my parents it was a real struggle, mainly with not knowing the language. It motivated me to learn quicker so that I could help them and my other siblings."

As part of the Premier League Girls Football programme, a coach from the Manchester United Foundation visited Maria's school and put on a session.

"I scored three goals in that match, a hat-trick, and I realised I was all right," she says. "After the match my coach asked me if I wanted to come and have a trial with United."

United and Maria
Maria for Man Utd against Blackburn this season

Maria has not looked back; in her two seasons with the club, the Under-16 striker has won an FA Cup runners-up medal and played on the hallowed turf at Old Trafford.

"I train twice a week and we have fixtures at the weekend," she says. "It's an amazing feeling to be putting a Man Utd shirt on and to represent the club.

"If the Foundation wasn't in my school I would have never played football or been given the opportunity to play for Manchester United.

"I've made loads of friends and I am a much more confident person as a result. I've got lots of opportunities for the future now. I'm excited to see where it goes."

See: Maria discusses her journey

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