Derry girl Cara McAteer won’t forget the moment she walked onto the pitch in front of thousands of football fans, hand in hand, with the Barcelona captain, Lionel Messi.
The Good Shepherd PS pupil had the opportunity of a lifetime last week after her mum, Sinead, won a MasterCard competition. The prize meant nine-year-old Cara was one of the mascots at the Champions League fixture between Manchester City and Barcelona on November 1.
Cara and her dad, Liam, travelled over to Manchester on Tuesday and made their way to the Etihad Stadium at 5 o’clock. Following rehearsals, Cara and the MasterCard Mascots were lined up in the tunnel to await the players.
“In the tunnel, Messi came along and stopped beside me and I was really happy. He said ‘hello’ and then he said, ‘Are you ready, let’s go,’ and we walked out on to the pitch behind the referee. It was very loud with the music and the crowd,” said Cara.
Dad Liam had no idea his daughter would be paired with Messi.
“Then, on the big screen, the camera panned along and I saw Cara with Messi,” said Liam. “I have to admit that brought a tear to my eye.”
Cara got to high five the other players, including Luis Suarez who is one of her father’s favourite all time players.
Mum Sinead has won the Mastercard competition previously. In February 2013 Aidan McAteer was a mascot at Arsenal v Bayern Munich and in 2014 Cara was a mascot in the Manchester City v Barcelona match. Cara’s classmates at Good Shepherd PS watched her big moment with Messi thanks to her teacher, Ms Grant, who showed them a short clip.
Liam added: “Although Barcelona lost the match, Cara had a truly priceless experience and one which she will always remember.”