A schoolgirl from Co Down had the privilege of leading out Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley for their Champions League game against Barcelona last night.
Following the 4-2 defeat inspired by Lionel Messi, nine-year-old Grace Brown from Dromore suggested that in hindsight she maybe should have stood on the Barcelona striker’s toes in the tunnel before the game.
The Downshire Primary School pupil got the opportunity to lead out the teams as the main mascot through her dad Nicky, a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter.
Mr Brown works for one of the sponsors who ran a mascot competition for its UK employees and their families.
As the winner of that competition, Grace found herself standing with the match officials as kick off approached.
Friends and family watched in awe on BT Sport as the Spurs and Barcelona teams lined up, led by captains Hugo Lloris and Lionel Messi, behind the nine-year-old who appeared to be chatting casually with the referee.
Grace said: “There was lots of waiting but I got to hang out with other mascots, and I shared a lift with [Spurs player] Christian Eriksen.”
Asked if she was nervous to be around so many world-class players, she said: “I wasn’t nervous but I knew Harry Kane and Lionel Messi were right behind me.
“The referee was really nice to me and told me to lift the match ball when I walked out.
“I couldn’t believe how many cameras there were taking pictures during the music when we came out of the tunnel.”
After leading the teams out on to the Wembley pitch Grace was reunited with her dad and her mum Zara to take their seats for the game.
Barcelona ran out 4-2 winners, the Spanish giants seeing off a valiant Spurs’ fightback in the second half.
A late Messi goal sealed a game which was in the balance up until the dying minutes.
Grace said: “I enjoyed the match but in hindsight I wished I had stood on Messi’s toes.”
The schoolgirl, who is also a Northern Ireland fan, has been to several matches during qualification campaigns, but the Wembley visit was her “biggest” game to date.
Her dad Nicky said: “Zara and I are really proud of how calm Grace was walking out in front of 90,000 people.
“For once the result doesn’t matter – our wee Grace played a blinder.”