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Russia 2018: McDonald’s brings youngsters closer to their dreams

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Young boys and girls of Kazan and the Republic of Tatarstan walked hand-in-hand onto the pitch with the players of Belgium and Brazil national football teams just before the quarterfinal match of the World Cup started. This incredible opportunity was given to the children by the McDonald’s.

Being the official sponsor of the tournament, McDonald’s runs the Player Escort programme and gives children, who are aged between six and ten, the opportunity to take part in the most important events of the football world. This year 1,276 children took their part in the programme, and the 8 of them are in the care of the Ronald McDonald House, a place to stay for families with hospitalized children who are being treated at the nearby ‘Republican Children’s Clinical Hospital Ministry of Health of Tatarstan’ in Kazan.

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018

Also, among the children escorting the football players before the Kazan quarterfinal game, was the 8 year old hero Ilnaz Smirnov from Naberezhnye Chelny. In August 2017, a fire broke out on the balcony of the apartment where he lives. But the boy did not lose his head: immediately he closed the doors of the balcony and the room leading to it, then he ran to the far room and began to call the passers-by people to help through the window. His neighbors heard him and called the firefighters. In recognition of his bravery during the fire, Ilnaz was awarded the medal «Za muzestvo v spasenii»  (For courage in rescue) [in russian: «За мужество в спасении»].

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018

Before the 22 lucky kids went to escort the players to the game, they met with the 2018 World Cup Ambassador in Kazan Irek Zinnurov, famous Russian water polo player and two-time Olympic winner, and the singer and the leader of ‘Murakami’ Russian rock band Dilara Vagapova. Together with the little football fans Dilara Vagapova, a frequent guest of the Ronald McDonald House events, performed the song called «Nulevoi kilometr» (Zero kilometer) [in russian «Нулевой километр»]. Then the boys and girls learned a football chant and said who they think will win the upcoming match.

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018

‘When I was watching the 1980 Olympics with my grandmother, I said how lucky these athletes were to compete at the Olympics. Then my grandmother told me that I can get the right to compete there, if I’ll start work hard. I did it. And all of you managed to do it too. Now you’re representing your country and your city at the international football tournament, it’s a remarkable and responsible thing to do. Such powerful impression remains with people for life, and you kids surely remember this moment forever, when hearing the roar of the crowd you walk onto the flooded with light stadium field hand-in-hand with a football star, a national team player at the World Cup Football. Pass the players a bit of luck so they show us a beautiful game! One more thing, love sport and do sports!‘, that’s how Irek Zinnurov shared his experience and encouraged the kids.

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018 / Photo provided by McDonald’s

Our reporter talked to young football fans just before they went onto the pitch.

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018

Maksim, 6
– Are you a football fan?
– Um, yeah, I’m a Russia national team fan.
– Do you play football?
– Yes, I train at the FC ‘Rubin’ Kazan Academy.
– So, how’s it going?
– Very good.
– Who would you like to escort onto the pitch?
– I would like to escort Marcelo.
– What do you think who will win?
– Brazil!

Vadim, 9
– I suppose you are a football player too?
– Yes, I train at the ‘Rubin’ Academy too. I’m a defender.
– Are on the same team with Maksim?
– No, he is in 2011 team, and I’m in 2009.
– Did you compete? You had many victories?
– Sure!
– Have you ever been at the ‘Kazan Arena’?
– Yes, when ‘Rubin’ was playing.
– Is this the first time you participate in such event?
– Yes, I’m a bit nervous myself.
– And who would you like to escort onto the pitch?
– Neymar.
– Neymar? Do you support Brazil?
– I support Russia. Glad we made it to the quarterfinals.
– And who is your favorite player?
– You mean ‘Rubin’ or the national team?
– The national team.
– Akinfeev. I liked it when he saved that last penalty.

The McDonald’s Player Escort Programme 2018

Sofia, 9
– Do you like football?
– No, but sometimes I like to play with my friends.
– I think this is the first time you’ll be at a big stadium, isn’t it?
– Yes, I’ve never been before. A bit nervous.
– What do you think who will win?
– Brazil!
– Which team do you support?
– I support Russia. Also Brazil.
– And who would you like to escort onto the pitch?
– Neymar.
– Why him?
– Well, he’s cool. He’s a good football player and scores a lot.
– So, do you play any sports?
– I do artistic gymnastics and play chess.
– Great! What do you do best?
– Gymnastics.
– Did you compete?
– A lot.
– You had many victories?
– Of course! And I’m going to continue.
– And what about chess?
– Also good.
– You train both the body and mind. That’s really great! Then good luck with the sports!
– Thank you!

Interviewed by Timur Galiev, photos by Igor Galiev

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