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A Messi affair! - GSAT top boy Max Leiba’s secret passion earns him a surprise at graduation

Published:Wednesday | July 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston

MAY PEN, Clarendon:

Top Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Foundation Preparatory School student Max Leiba has everything that any child could desire. His parents, who are fairly well off, ensure that he doesn't lack anything. However, there was one thing he wanted more than all else in the world, and they had no clue!

When his principal Latoya Bennett asked him what gift he would want for being the top boy in GSAT, the last thing she was expecting was his outburst of "Messi to the world!"

Although his parents were more than able to afford to treat him, she shared the information with Otis James of James and Friends Education Programme, who decided to surprise not just Max, but his father, Max Sr too, who has always been giving to the programme by assisting other students as a member.

"I wanted to show that you can be brilliant academically and still be committed to sports," he said of his motivation to order Lionel Messi ensemble of shoes, shirt, shorts, shin guard and socks with Max's name emblazoned at the back of the jersey.

On Sunday, July 9, at Max's graduation ceremony, the big smile on his face when he was presented with the ensemble said it all. It also gave his parents, Max and Michelle, a window to just how much he was enamoured by the sport.

To say that they were surprised was an understatement as they said they knew he represented the school in football, but didn't realise he felt so strongly about the sport and his hero, Messi.

Young Max has been representing his school since he was in kindergarten. At the preparatory level, he played in midfield and as a defender and was also one of the top goalscorers for Foundation Preparatory School.

For the summer programme at Glenmuir High, the school he will now be attending in September, he is the captain for his football team and is now looking forward to blending his schoolwork with his football prowess.

In hindsight, his parents are not surprised that he is a big fan of the Argentinean, as during World Cup 2014, all their cheers were focused on that team.

Young Leiba, in explaining his fixation on the footballer, said, "I admire him because of his aim to always stay on top, just like myself. He does not get comfortable and always tries to be the best."

Juggling football and schoolwork will not be an issue for the youngster, as he said there is just one formula he will be practising and that is "play hard but study harder!"