The FC Barcelona Foundation has given one of Neymar’s boots to a young Phillipino girl called Leanna, who won a competition for writing about her dream
It all started with the Sant Jordi 2015 literature competition, when the social and education organisation Terral asked its pupils to write an essay. The topic this year was simple yet complex: ‘A Dream’. Leanna, an 11 year old Philippine girl at this centre in the Barcelona district of Raval, didn’t think twice about writing about Neymar, the hero that features in so many of her dreams.
In her text, Leanna dreamt that she found the Brazilian’s boots at the football pitch in her hometown. She puts them on, goes onto the field, and there is Neymar, ready to play a long game of football. The jury, led by authors Eduardo Mendoza and Patrícia Gabancho were entranced by this essay written using the pseudonym ‘Neymar’ and decided to make it the winner in that category.
But that’s not the end of the story. The next day, the director of the centre, Victòria Guindulain, was surprised by the interest generated by Leanna’s story, and decided to start working to make that dream come true. She felt that she had nothing to lose, and wrote to the FC Barcelona Foundation, who in turn told Neymar himself about the story. The striker didn’t think twice, and decided to give Leanna one of his signed boots. On Monday a delegation from the Foundation led by its patron Antoni Tombas presented the young girl with the real prize for her lovely entry. The Terral was packed for the occasion and the atmosphere had nothing to envy of the most passionate evenings at the Camp Nou.
“Thank you, Neymar, for giving me this gift” said the young Barça fanatic, while nervously clutching the fabled boots. “I want to take them to the Philippines this summer, to my family’s home” she said.
Once I had a dream where I was in my home country, the Philippines. I was in my town, a smaller place than Barcelona and I was walking to the local football pitch. I went straight into the dressing room where I supposed that my team-mates would be waiting. But all I found was a shoe box. I was surprised and decided to open it, and I was even more surprised when I saw that they were Neymar’s boots. I put them on and went out onto the field to play. When I got there, Neymar was waiting for me to play some football. We played until night-time, when Neymar said he had to go and that it had all been a dream. When I woke up, I could still feel the studs of the boots and my legs ached from so much running.
Her words are still fresh in his mind as he steps out of the car and makes his way towards the little bakery shop. One that used to be like a second home to him, a place he knows his way around like the back of his hand.
The little bell jingles as he steps inside and nostalgia hits him with the scent of freshly baked goods. A scent that makes him feel warm and surrounds him, making him feel at home. Somewhat calming the nerves and restlessness that have been inside of him ever since he left 3 years ago, Santos finally feeling like home again.
“I’ll be with you in just a minute!” her voice calls out.
Neymar feels his knees weaken at the sound of her voice. Still full of that ringing cheer that had attracted him to her in the first place. The voice that still haunted his dreams with the last words that she’d ever said to him.
“We had a good run, Ney. But it ends here.” She said, not turning to face him as she picked up her things off the floor.
“What are you-” Neymar began, panic setting in. He couldn’t lose her - not now, not ever. She was everything to him, she was meant to be with him on the journey through his career. He’d finally had his breakthrough and he wanted her by his side - and she knew that, so what on earth was she saying?
“It’s over, okay? We’re through,” she called over her shoulder, before walking out on him, ripping his heart out of him and leaving him bleeding. Frozen in place with the shock of her words and her actions.
Y/N feels the world around her come crashing down as she steps out and sees who the customer is. She grabs hold of the counter to steady herself, her head spinning. No, no, no, she chants in her head. He’s not supposed to come back. He’s supposed to be in Chile right now. He’s supposed to be far, far away from here, and he’s definitely not supposed to look the way he does. His hair shorter, giving his face a softer look than the previous sharper one. His cheekbones more prominent, his face less round. Still a towering, lean figure as his athletic form is visible underneath the fitted shirt he’s sporting.
“N-Neymar,” she stutters. Holding back the inevitable urge to just run to him, have him hold her and never let go. Wanting to fill the hole inside of her that only he was ever capable of filling.
“It’s good to see you, Y/N,” he replies, his voice gruff.
His hands are fisted at his sides, his jaw tense. She can almost feel the anger and the hurt radiating off him. Her own heart breaking, knowing full well that she’s the reason he’s so torn up on the inside.
“I didn’t know you were back in Brazil,” she manages, somehow trying to regain her composure, not wanting him to see just how affected she is by his presence and walking around the bakery towards the counter, right next to the door where he’s standing.
“We’re out of the Copa, so I decided to stop by before pre-season,” Neymar answers her, unable to take his eyes off her.
The years have certainly been kind to her. Still small and delicate like before, but definitely fuller in other parts that show even beneath the checkered red and white apron she’s got on. Her hair pulled back into a braid, the loose strands framing her angular face. The colour a stark contrast to the bright hazel eyes that he sees every time he closes his own.
“Well, welcome back then. What can I get you?” She says, forcing a tight-lipped smile at him. So formal and unfamiliar with him, making him feel like a stranger and wanting to scream. Had he meant that little to her?
“A meal with you. Tonight.” Neymar replies, just as curt as she was.
He sees the way she visibly tenses, secretly satisfying him to know that he’s affecting her in some way. And right there and then he knows that he’ll be able to win her back, because in his mind he can’t think of two people who were meant to be together more than the two of them are. They were made for each other, he knows that they’re soulmates and even if she doesn’t love him like he loves her - he knows he can find a way to keep her happy and with him. As long as she has so much as a shred of feelings towards him, it’s enough.
I need to tell him - I need to tell him before it’s too late, are the words racing through her head. After dinner with Neymar the previous night, she hadn’t been able to resist him for long and so she had found herself pushed up against a wall in Neymar’s old apartment, ripping Neymar’s clothes off him as he did the same to her. Just like old times.
She’d woken up in his bed, her heart throbbing with both love and pain as Neymar had stirred behind her, his face burying deeper into her neck, his arm around her tightening. Holding on to her, even in his dreams.
She carefully slips out from under his arm, getting out of bed and standing up.
“Last time we were in this position, you walked out on me,” Neymar’s husky morning voice calls out from behind her. Making her heart shatter into a million tiny pieces, all over again.
She turns back to look at him, almost shivering as he bites his lip and looks her over, clad in absolutely nothing.
“C’mere,” he says gently sitting up in bed and holding out his arms. He feels triumphant as after a second of hesitation, she climbs back into bed with him. Wrapping his arms around her and holding her close, feeling her hand on his chest as she rests her head on his shoulder, sighing.
“I could get used to this all too easily,” she murmurs sadly, as he gently runs his fingers up her spine.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Neymar murmurs back, his lips on her forehead. Wishing they could freeze time and he could stay like this with her forever. Feeling her gentle breaths hitting the side of his neck and keeping her tucked into his side, her warmth radiating onto him. Inside their little bubble.
The bubble’s broken when he feels her heart begin to race and her body tense up, pulling back and frowning at her. His hands cupping her face and stroking her cheek when he sees the tears welling up in her eyes, his face falling into a frown.
“Hey- what’s wrong?” he asks her, his voice laced with confusion and concern.
She shakes her head and untangles herself from him, leaving the bed and pulling on her clothes.
“We can’t - I can’t do this with you again, Neymar,” she says, her voice thick, betraying her words.
Neymar feels anger wash through him, refusing to let this happen again. He jumps out of bed, putting on his boxers and walks over to her, standing in her way as she tries to leave the room.
“Why are you so eager to get away from me? I don’t understand what I did wrong-” he begins, but she puts her hand over his mouth, cutting him off. Her pained expression contradicting her actions.
“No - no you did nothing wrong, Ney, you’re perfect- God, you’re every woman’s dream but-” she stutters, her throat closing up as the invisible weight on her shoulders starts pulling her down.
“But what?” he demands, knocking her hand off. Sick and tired of the silence, wanting to know what went wrong.
She looks down at her hands, taking a deep breath.
“I have a son, Neymar.”
He walks into the bakery, after having taken time to cool off.
It was like a slap in the face, finding out she had a child. It was something he’d always thought about with her, the kind of life he’d imagined being a part of with her. And here she was, living his fantasy only without him.
He’d let her go, but he’d told her it wasn’t over. She wasn’t married, and she wasn’t with her son’s father considering she hadn’t even mentioned the man. She was also the last person to be unfaithful, so he knew she’d never have allowed anything to happen between them if she was committed to someone else.
And so that gives him hope. He could still be with her, and if he had to raise someone else’s child with her he was prepared to do so. Because the child was still her child, and that was enough for him to love the boy as his own.
The bakery is empty and no one calls out or comes through to the counter this time. He follows the sound of shuffling coming from the kitchen, and walks through the mini-doors next to the counter, making his way inside the. Finding a little toddler walking around, holding an iPad in his hands.
The boy looks up at him with big, chocolate eyes full of innocence and a surge of emotion hits Neymar. He loses train of thought and feels nothing but love for the boy as he wobbles over to him, a shy smile on his face. A little dimple in his cheek, looking up at him and holding the iPad up.
“Play!” he calls out, four tiny front teeth on display.
Neymar bends down, trying to get to eye-level with him and takes the iPad from him, opening it up. The boy walks into him and takes a seat on his bent leg, pointing at the iPad and muttering gibberish, chatting away to him as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Neymar chuckles and scoops him up into his arms, walking over to the little table and chairs, taking a seat with him in his lap and watching over his shoulder as he plays his little games on the iPad. As if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
Y/N walks through the back door into the bakery and freezes, the sight before her sending her emotions into frenzy. Her dreams and her nightmares both coming alive to take form in front of her. Her throat tightens at the sight of Neymar with her son, the two so engrossed in their activity together you’d think this was everyday activity for them.
“Neymar,” she breathes out, and he looks up at her. Giving her a small smile.
“Ma-mai,” the little boy squeals, continuing to chat away in baby language and pointing to Neymar.
She rubs her forehead, completely at a loss for what to do. Neymar gets up to talk to her, setting the child down on the chair, just as the bell jingles in the bakery signalling someone walking through.
“Onde està garotinho da tia?” he hears an all too familiar voice call out.
His world stops around him as Rafaella appears through the archway, a smile on her face - which fades the second she sees Neymar standing there.
“Oh - Neymar- I-” she stutters, completely at a loss for worlds.
“Ti!” the child calls out, wobbling over to Rafa and hugging her legs.
Neymar feels anger, shock and disbelief course through him. His blood boiling, his hands fisting as they begin to shake. Of all the things Y/N could’ve done…
“Neymar, I can explain-” she begins in a small voice.
“Explain what? That you hid my son from me?” Neymar spits back, not bothering to even try and keep his voice calm.
“Ney, she had good reason-” Rafa begins, but Neymar cuts her off.
“No. You don’t get to say anything. You knew, you knew and you never even mentioned it to me,” he snarls at her, feeling betrayed and hurt.
“Neymar, please, not in front of Davi-” Y/N begs, tears welling up in her eyes, yet he’s too mad at her to hurt for her.
He walks out the back door without another word, waiting for her to follow and explain. He stares out at the view of Santos around him, taking in deep breaths to calm himself down and start figuring out what to do next. Yet everything feels foreign, as if he’s stepped into a completely different world.
“I found out right after you told me Barca signed you. I wasn’t going to hold you back, Neymar. If I’d told you I was pregnant you would’ve messed up your chances,” Y/N begins to explain, willing him to understand that whatever she had done was to protect him.
“That wasn’t your decision to make, Y/N. How the fuck could you decide you were going to hide the fact that I have a son from me?” he answers back, narrowing his eyes are her as he turns to face her.
She looks down at her hands, shaking her head.
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” she chokes out on a sob, her face contorted with pain, an ache so strong in her chest that she wishes she were numb to everything around her.
Neymar clenches his jaw, unable to look at her.
“It was all I ever wanted. I wanted a family with you. I wanted to raise kids with you and marry you and grow old with you. I wanted you there in the stadiums with our kids wearing little jerseys, supporting me,” Neymar tells her, looking out towards the bakery. Seeing Rafa place Davi- his son- on the counter and press a kiss to his cheek before inserting a pacifier into his mouth.
“Neymar it was your big break! It was my mistake for not being careful; you shouldn’t have had to deal with the consequences. I didn’t want to hold you back. Playing for Barcelona…it was everything you wanted,” she says, her voice laced with regret.
Neymar finally looks back at her, his anger subsiding.
“You were everything I wanted, Y/N.” He says, sighing. “And that still hasn’t changed…no matter how stupid of a decision you made.”
Hope surges in her heart and she can’t help the tears that start falling from her eyes, Neymar softening on the inside and wiping them away, taking a hold of her face.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she whispers, her voice sincere.
Neymar nods, accepting the apology.
“I forgive you, querida.” He says, before gently pressing his lips to hers.
She smiles when he pulls away, wiping away the last of her tears before entwining her fingers with his.