Álvaro Morata had just scored one of the most important goals in recent Spanish football history, but he did not forget his promise to a young boy. The player's goal against Sweden on Sunday, which sent his side to the 2022 World Cup, didn't seem to be the most important thing on his mind. He quickly reminded the bench to give him a cardboard star.
Morata raised the star in the air, visibly emotional; it had been given to him by Miguel Ángel, from Alhaurín el Grande, the day before as a good-luck charm for the striker - his favourite player. The boy is nine years old and is a huge Spain supporter, which is one of the few things that make him smile on a daily basis despite suffering a complex illness that he's been fighting for a year and a half.
After months of waiting, on Saturday Miguel Ángel was finally able to meet his idols in person, a promise that Spain manager Luis Enrique made him in April 2020. The coach was also the first person in the world of football to know about the nine-year-old's illness.
"They tell me that you're one of the best fans we have. Now it's my turn, as a manager, to cheer you on as you did for me. Once you get out of hospital you're invited to come and visit us and we'll give you a t-shirt as cool as the one I'm wearing, and a ball signed by all the players. I'm looking forward to meeting you, see you and hug you. Stay strong, we're the best," said Luis Enrique in April last year, when Miguel Ángel was in hospital.
"It was a very happy moment and he cried with the excitement. This will do him a lot of good and I'm very grateful," said Lourdes, the boy's mother. "I thank Fundación Pequeño Deseo for making children, like mine, happy."
"You were our star, Miguel Ángel. Morata's goal is for you," said the Spain national team on their social media accounts. Sometimes, football goes above and beyond.