AN autistic British boy whose life has been turned around by football had his dreams come true when his hero Jude Bellingham and the Real Madrid team gifted him with a signed shirt.
Bennadarajah Marr, 17, known to everyone as Benjy, was given the shirt ahead of the match between the Madrid club and Cadiz CF this weekend.
It managed to turn around what otherwise was a disappointing 3-0 defeat for his beloved Cadiz CF, the club Benjy plays for in the Inclusive League (La Liga Genuine).
He had also brought a giant poster asking Jude Bellingham to give him his shirt as he trudged off the pitch after scoring Madrid’ third goal.
Bellingham, who Benjy’s mother says has inspired him as another British boy making it in Spain, saw the sign and gave a smile and a wave. But, alas for Benjy, he did not get hold of the treasured shirt.
“But he was so happy to get the signed shirt and it means so much to someone like Benjy,” mother Renuka told the Olive Press.
“Because of his autism and ADD, he really struggles to make friends and he doesn’t understand why people don’t want to be his friend.
“So when he gets this recognition from the Real Madrid players – global megastars – it gives him a sense of acceptance and belonging which is so important for him.”
Benjy was born in Slough, England, and was diagnosed early in life with autism, dyspraxia, attention deficit disorder and delayed development.
After a tough childhood, Renuka, who has raised him as a single parent, relocated them to Cadiz when he was 12 in search of a fresh start.
But troubles followed him and his mum really feared for Benjy’s future, as he struggled to interact with others and his frustration sometimes boiled over.
“He’s had literally zero friends for the last five years,” Renuka said.
“There might have been one or two people who were nice to him in school and kind to him but nobody wanted to invite him to the movies or play football.”
Benjy’s dream was to meet Messi, who was ‘like a father figure for him’, and it led him, by chance, to Cadiz CF and the Inclusive League.
Suddenly he had found a group of friends, all of whom had different disabilities and special needs, without having to struggle so much with social cues and interactions.
Benjy patrols the midfield for his team, training with his teammates under the watchful eyes of his coaches. Then he plays on the weekends – if he can get in the team.
Since he joined the team, Benjy’s behaviour and performance in school have improved immeasurably.
“It really has saved both our lives,” Renuka said.
Find out more about the Inclusive League (La Liga Genuine) HERE.