A Crawley boy has lived every football fan’s dream as he got the chance to lead out some of the world’s greatest players at the Champions League final over the weekend.
Seven-year-old Malachy McCrory enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as he walked out onto the pitch at Olympic Stadium in Kiev with stars from Real Madrid and Liverpool on Saturday night (May 26).
Malachy shared the stage with big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah as he was tasked with leading out Real’s midfield maestro Luka Modric, whilst millions watched world-wide.
His proud step-father, Rachid Elhajoui, looked on from the stands and said: “He absolutely loved it and the whole trip has been amazing.
“He didn’t want to come home, he wanted to stay out there.
“He just said he loved it and when can he do it again? He said it was like a dream.”
The youngster was flown out to the final by Mastercard after being entered secretly by his mother, Lisa Elhajouri, in the company’s mascot competition.
She said at first she didn’t believe he had won and he was bouncing around the room when he found out.
“I applied without him knowing thinking it was never going to happen, these things never happen to us,” She said. “Then they contacted me to say he’s won.”
Lisa explained Malachy, who is a young carer for his older brother Reece, had experienced a difficult year.
She said: “We have had a really bad year. There’s been hospital trips and he lost one of his grandparents last year.
“To be honest we still didn’t believe it until they sent the boarding passes over as well as a Mastercard for him to spend with when he is out there.”
The youngster flew out to Ukraine on Friday, staying in an all-expense paid 4-star hotel in the city centre.
Before the main event he was also treated to many other activities, and got to meet a surprise guest.
Rachid explained as the mascots watched a presentation on the Champions League, former Ukraine goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy - who made more than 100 appearances in the competition - made a special appearance.
“He surprised us all,” he said. “He gave us all a nice little talk and a photoshoot.”
Malachy was also given a special coaching session at the stadium before he was given his pep talk and walked out with both squads.
“I was a very proud parent, it was emotional,” Rachid said. “He’s pretty famous, the whole street is talking about it.”
Liverpool lost 3-1 and although Rachid is a long-time reds fan he said the result couldn’t put a dampener on the whole experience.
He added: “It was amazing, we couldn’t have asked for more.”