Only A Game? The Mexican, Mourinho and pure generosity

Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday March 4, 2013. Real Madrid will face Manchester United in their UEFA Champions League match tomorrow evening. See PA story SOCCER Real Madrid. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.
Real Madrid Manager Jose Mourinho during a press conference at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday March 4, 2013. Real Madrid will face Manchester United in their UEFA Champions League match tomorrow evening. See PA story SOCCER Real Madrid. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Jose Mourinho really is the ‘Special One’. In the world of football the Portuguese man is divisive but after helping a Mexican cleaner realise his dream he has shown himself to not only be a talented manager but his actions show just how much of a kind and generous human being he is.

When it comes to splitting opinions, Mourinho is as divisive as Margaret Thatcher on a bad day. But love him or loathe him, the world of football is much more colourful when he’s around.

The stories of debauchery, greed and over-indulgence are too common place in football and it’s precisely because of this unhealthy obsession with materialism that I have found myself becoming less and less interested in the game.

But every once in a while something happens that acts as a reminder that not everyone in football is a self-obsessed prima donna whose only loyalty is to money.

Abel Rodríguez is a 41 year-old American/Mexican who lives in California.

Abel waxes floors for a living and has a lifelong obsession with Real Madrid.

For the last seven years, Abel has taken two weeks’ unpaid leave from his job to volunteer at Real Madrid’s summer training camp in Los Angeles.

For two whole weeks, Abel rises at the crack of dawn and returns home at 11 at night to catch a few hours sleep before doing it all over again the next day. He helps lay cones and why does he do it? Abel loves Real Madrid - it’s as simple as that.

As summers came and went, Abel’s relationship with Real Madrid and manager Mourinho grew. So much so, he decided to withdraw his life savings and fund a trip to Madrid to see his beloved Los Blancos take on Barcelona in El Classico.

The decision to jet off halfway around the world meant Abel would have to go without taking his family on holiday but his wife and child insisted he follow his dream.

Abel arrived in Madrid with no accommodation arranged, no match ticket and no contact details for Mourinho.

The security team at Real Madrid’s training ground refused to let him and fearing the worst, Abel walked away and sat on the footpath outside the training ground.

What happened next is just unbelievable. When it comes to sentiment and emotion I tend to vomit at the slightest hint of it but what Mourinho did for Abel was nothing short of generosity in its purist form.

Mourinho spotted little Abel sitting on the ground and jumped out of the car he was travelling in to ask Abel what he was going in Madrid.

After he’d explained himself, Mourinho insisted Abel join the team for the Barcelona game.

Abel stayed in the same hotel as Mourinho and the rest of the team and ordered the little man from Los Angeles to get a good night’s sleep before joining him and the rest of the team at the training ground the following morning.

The night before the big game, Abel shared dinner with Mourinho and told of his plans to return home to Los Angeles after the game. Mourinho wouldn’t hear of it and insisted Abel join the team for the Champion’s League clash with Manchester United in Old Trafford.

Abel became nervous. He said to Mourinho he must go home because he had no way of paying for flights to and from Manchester.

“When you’re with me in Europe, you don’t pay for s---,” said Mourinho.

“You help us and you live a bigger dream, a Champions League match from the inside.”

Real Madrid went on to beat Barcelona 2-1. Abel was labelled as the club’s lucky charm and when Los Blancos went on to beat Manchester United at Old Trafford Mourinho would have been forgiven for trying to hold on to Abel permanently.

Abel was even pictured on television in the tunnel before the game standing beside Cristiano Ronaldo - you couldn’t make it up!

Abel was listed as a kit man for the game with Manchester United and his dream wasn’t to end there.

Mexican striker, Javier Hernandez spoke with Abel before the game and when he heard his fellow country man’s story he couldn’t believe it. Hernandez gave Abel his Manchester United shirt after the game.

Abel was so overcome by the generosity he experienced he burst into tears. He was so dedicated to his work that when he returned to Madrid he helped to unload the players’ bags off the plane. He never got the chance to thank Mourinho.

It’s too easy to be cynical about Abel’s story but the fact remains, Mourinho didn’t have to do what he did.

In my opinion, what Mourinho did for Abel is much more important than winning any competition or football match.

Love him or hate him, Mourinho went out of his way to make a 41 year-old man’s dream come true.

The sheer kindness and generosity shown by Mourinho is much more lasting than any football team he will ever put together and something tells me he’s aware of that.

It’s great winning matches and trophies but when there’s an opportunity to make a difference to someone’s life for the better we should grab it with both hands.

I know I am in danger of sounding sentimental but there’s just no getting away from it, the Special One did something very special indeed.