St. Vital man to meet Pope Francis

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BY SIMON FULLER

STAFF REPORTER

ST. VITAL

Supplied photo

Vivek Bhagria pictured earlier this year in Lima, Peru. The St. Vital resident is among a contingent scheduled to meet Pope Francis in the Vatican City on Oct. 26.

If Vivek Bhagria can find the time to write his memoirs in later life, he’ll have lots to talk about.

At the age of 27, he may be advised to wait a while before undertaking any such endeavour, as plenty of adventures still await the St. Vital resident.

At press time, the avid soccer player — who has dwarfism — was preparing to head to the Vatican City, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church, in Italy.

Bhagria is part of a contingent, made up of North Americans and South Americans, that will meet Pope Francis on Oct. 26. He said the contingent is scheduled to spend two hours with the pontiff, which will include breakfast, a photo session, and no doubt some words of encouragement and appreciation for the achievements of the players.

“I’m honoured,” Bhagria said, noting he visited London, England, as a child, but has never been to mainland Europe. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it’s a great honour to be meeting the Pope. I’d like to say thank-you for having me. It’s an amazing feeling, and my family and friends and coach are all so proud. The Pope has met so many famous people. He’s such a powerful man.”

The coach Bhagria refers to is soccer coach Miguel Sanz, who has coached Bhagria at a number of tournaments, including the Copa América Talla Baja Peru 2022 tournament, which was held in May. At that event, Bhagria represented a combined Canadian and American dwarf team. That team is part of the Vatican City contingent, along with Argentinian national team. The first Dwarf Copa America World Cup will be held in Argentina next summer.

A Dakota Collegiate alumnus and Red River College Polytech business administration graduate, Bhagria — who works at South Winnipeg Community Centre’s Fort Richmond site in a digital marketing role — said he’s proud to have been a role model for little people throughout his life and is equally as thrilled at the prospect at being an ambassador for his nation during his European trip.

“It’s a great honour to be representing people with dwarfism and representing Canada. Growing up, it was important to me to be a role model when I was younger, which gave me satisfaction,” Bhagria said.

“If you keep working hard and dreaming big, you can overcome the challenges that come your way.

“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Simon Fuller

Simon Fuller
Community Journalist

Simon Fuller is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. Email him at simon.fuller@canstarnews.com or call him at 204-697-7111.

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