Benfica’s highly-rated Angolan striker Pedro Mantorras obviously is not one to forget his roots.
The 19-year-old, who turned down a move to Internazionale earlier this year, was clearly delighted when Benfica signed him from Alverca for œ3.5million in the close season. ‘Benfica is my destiny. It’s a great step forward,’ he said.
But it was not long before his thoughts turned to those less fortunate in his homeland, promising to donate a hefty percentage of his wages to set up a home for street kids in Luanda.
‘I feel so sorry for children in Angola,’ says Mantorras. ‘I know what it’s like to go hungry and to sleep on the street. My father died when I was three months old and my mother when I was 16. I had a brother to look after and became the head of the family very young. I had a lot of difficulties early in my life. Now that my fortunes have improved, I’m going to do what I can to help the underprivileged.’
The forward’s charitable nature does not extend to the field of play – his sumptuous skill, mobility, strength and dead-eye finishing make him a nightmare to neutralise.
Mantorras has already been described as the best player to come out of Portuguese Africa since Eusebio left Mozambique for Benfica in the early 1960s. Success-starved Benfica fans would not find such comparisons too fanciful. They fell in love with Mantorras as soon as they saw him turn on the style in pre-season. Eusebio himself says of the youngster: ‘He has special qualities and is set for a great future.’
Mantorras, who, according to the rumour mill, will eventually end up at Barcelona, says: ‘I realise there is a euphoric atmosphere around me at the moment, but I also know there will be times ahead of me at Benfica when I’m less fortunate, when I fall down. I learnt at Alverca that the key to success is to stay humble and work hard, and I will stick to these ideas at Benfica.’
Until early next year, Mantorras will be able to concentrate exclusively on his new club. In a gesture of goodwill the Angolan federation has agreed not to call him up for internationals before February 2002, when the qualifiers for the 2004 African Nations Cup begin. After playing a prominent role in his country’s African Under-20 Championship triumph in Ethiopia in March – he was the tournament’s top marksman with five goals – his next job will be to make the senior side more competitive. It’s a brief well within his compass.
Club Benfica (Por)
Born March 18, 1982, in Luanda
Previous club Alverca (Por)
Honours African Under-20 Championship 2001