A day as an FA Cup Final mascot
This weekend, my son Ryland had the experience of a lifetime! Thanks to Emirates, he won the chance to be a mascot for Arsenal at the FA Cup Final. It really was a dream come true for a football-mad 7 year old.
It all started when my friend sent a tweet from Emirates to me (thanks Karen!) – share a video of your child’s half time team talk to win the chance to be a mascot. We didn’t enter until it was certain that Arsenal would be in the final – so after the final whistle at the semi final, we eagerly filmed and uploaded Ryland’s entry a few hours before the first closing date!
A few days later Rob found out Ryland was the first winner – you can see me sharing the happy news with him on our YouTube channel! Then there was a couple of weeks nervously waiting to hear if I would be able to come too (the prize was for one parent/guardian to go – but Rob’s an Arsenal season ticket holder so was lucky enough to get us a second ticket!)
In the meantime, I shared details of the competition here on SuperLucky, and was delighted when four more of my readers won the same prize, three Arsenal mascots and one Chelsea (I’ve since heard from another reader whose son was also a Chelsea mascot!). The boys all made wonderful video entries.
The prize included two night’s accommodation in Kensington, and on Saturday at 1.30pm we met in the hotel lobby and boarded the coach to Wembley. The excitement levels were rising! I sat with fellow comper Polly and her son Zack, and Rob and Ryland sat with Simon, who had won in a Telegraph prize draw, and his son James. I’d also introduced myself to Chase (Nikki’s son, in his wheelchair) and Alfie (fellow comper Gemma’s son, who was there with Auntie Laura) – we were the Arsenal gang!
We waved the children off at Wembley at 2pm, were given our match tickets and told to return in a few hours in time for the 5.30pm kick off. Chase’s Grandad stayed with him at Wembley to ensure he was looked after – it was Chase’s first time at a football match and you could tell how delighted he was!
The sun was shining, so we headed for the fanzone to down a few pints of lager and shout at the Chelsea buses that passed by. In the meantime, the children were eating a packed lunch, changing into their mascot kits and rehearsing for their big moment in the spotlight!
The FA’s ‘TunnelCam’ gives a fantastic glimpse into the behind-the-scenes action – about three minutes in, you see the players heading to the pitch for a warm-up, high fiving the mascots. Ryland is clearly HUGELY excited about touching Alexis’ hand!
Up in the stands, all the parents had taken their seats – and we were getting nervous! Finally the moment came when the teams came out onto the pitch!
I couldn’t see Ry at all, so had to look out for him on the big screen. One after one, I saw all his new friends – and there he was, last of the lot – walking out with Mertesacker. I couldn’t believe it! From when he was tiny, Per was Ryland’s favourite player – he even wrote him a letter two years ago to congratulate him on winning the FA Cup!
I was sobbing away – combined with seeing Chase being wheeled out by Alexis Sanchez, I was in bits! Nikki tells me that an FA representative was going to wheel Chase onto the pitch, and Sanchez insisted on doing it (read about Chase’s day over at his mum’s super Glam & Geeky blog).
Here’s the footage of Prince William shaking hands with the players – you can spot Ryland (no glasses!) just before Arsene Wenger.
The parents were sitting in the stand (Rob had swapped tickets with me to join his friend higher up in the stand) waiting for their mascots – and then suddenly, Arsenal scored! We all screamed and started hugging people we’d never even seen before – it was amazing! A few minutes later our kids joined us to tell us all about their exciting afternoon.
The match itself was unexpectedly brilliant – after the season that Arsenal and Chelsea have had, I would never have guessed it would turn out like this! Fantastic performances by every Arsenal player – I had to keep rubbing my eyes to check it was real! But it was true – 2-1 to the Arsenal. YESSS!
We stayed to watch the players celebrate on the pitch then headed off to get our coach back to the hotel. It was late when we got back – but we were all so hungry! We headed out to the local KFC, and who should join us in the queue but the legendary Sol Campbell, who posed for a photo with Ryland and Zack. This day just could not be more perfect!
Thanks again to Emirates for making dreams come true. And good luck to the Arsenal for next season!
(official photos courtesy of the Football Association)