WATERHEAD ACADEMY discovered being one of Manchester United Foundation’s partner schools has its spin offs – a surprise visit from Spanish player Juan Mata.
It was arranged to tie in with the Spanish national holiday, Los Tres Reyes Magos, which means The Three Kings, and celebrates when The Three Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus.
Mata came bearing gifts that he personally had provided and which were handed out to primary school pupils from Hey With Zion, Hodge Clough, Horton Mill and Watersheddings.
It was far from a flying visit as Mata also dropped in to a year nine Spanish lesson and explained the importance of the Spanish festival.
Mata also performed the official opening of a new £18,000 languages laboratory.
He said: “It’s great to come to schools like this and to see the children so happy. We’ve been playing some games and I’ve enjoyed myself.
“I always say the Manchester United Foundation does a great job for the community. It’s incredible the amount of schools and hospitals they work with and for us players it is amazing to come here and to really experience what it means to make others happy.”
Foundation coach Claire Harrop, who works full-time at Waterhead and in the primary schools, said: “Seeing Juan here was amazing. We tried to keep it under wraps but there was a buzz all day.
“He is such a great role model, not only for the children but for the community. Days like this really give people aspirations and help them to be a bit more motivated.”
Mata also paid a visit to the children’s and outpatients’ units of Tameside Hospital.
This is the third year Mata has personally donated gifts to the children of Manchester. He also recognised the traditional Christmas celebrations in the UK by going out on December 22 to visit Wood Street Mission and the Zion Community Centre charities.