The visit ties in with the Spanish national holiday, Los Tres Reyes Magos, which means The Three Kings, and is celebrated on 6th January to honour the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus. Children, families and entire cities throughout the country celebrate the major Spanish Christmas tradition, with festivals and parades along with the tradition of exchanging gifts.
Bringing the spirit of the Spanish celebration to Manchester, Mata personally delivered to Kingfisher, one of the Foundation’s latest partner schools. The school welcomed Mata with a Spanish themed assembly to honour the important day in the midfielder’s country’s tradition and students were thrilled to receive gifts from the Reds star.
Mata said, “Today was a good opportunity for us to do something nice for kids who are having problems in their lives in different ways, whether it’s physical or mentally so I came here to deliver some of these toys for the kids and it was great to see their smiling faces.”
Speaking on the tradition in his country on this special day he said, “When I was a kid, Three Kings Day was the best day of the year, we would open our presents and play in the streets. It is a big tradition and it’s a special day so it was the perfect time to come here and visit.”
Kingfisher Headteacher Anne Redmond said, “It’s just a fantastic experience for the kids, some of them have a lot to deal with and we go to every effort to make sure we have the best facilities, to have people visit and have supporters like Juan that makes all the difference for us.”
Foundation Coach, Stephen Harcourt, who works full-time within the school and described the impact it would have on the students, “Today was amazing for the children and it will also have been great for Juan himself to come and see the work we the Foundation does within the school here.”
Mata also paid a visit to the Starlight Unit at the University Hospital of South Manchester where he delivered presents to children and families on the wards there. Gillian Heer, Starlight Ward Manager, said, “It was a real pleasure to welcome Juan Mata to our Children’s Ward. Being in hospital over Christmas and the New Year can often be hard for children and their families, but Juan’s visit put a smile on everyone’s face. On behalf of our patients, families and hospital staff, I would like to thank Juan and the Manchester United Foundation for coming to visit UHSM and for giving out such generous gifts.”
Not wanting to miss the Christmas tradition in the UK, Mata also donated 90 gifts for a children’s Christmas party at Wood Street Mission, a Manchester charity who help struggling families in Manchester and Salford.
Photography credit: Luke Thornley