SJFA COACH’S DAUGHTER SELECTED TO BE PLAYER MASCOT IN ENGLAND V CZECH REPUBLIC GAME AT WEMBLEY

Coach Amir Zaidi describes the big day out:

Whilst excitement was my daughters overwhelming emotion upon discovering that she had been selected to act as a player mascot at Wembley on the 22nd of March for the England v Czech Republic game, in the run-up to the match we both began to think carefully about the responsibility that this role gave us.

The match would be televised on ITV and it was an important game for England with a large audience in the stadium and at home expected.

In those circumstances we felt it was a great opportunity for the people watching to see a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab standing with the players representing our faith with confidence.

We also hoped that it would create a lot of pride for other young Muslims seeing her on television too.

This feeling of responsibility was made even greater after the awful terrorist events in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier that week. We were determined to set ourselves positive role models.

As many will know many in SJFA have worked hard to build strong relationships within the FA, to show them how far we have progressed as a community club. The fact that the put aside a valued position as a mascot especially for SJFA is testament to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.

In the days leading up to the game, the FA they were fantastic, a few days before they gave us the full details of the event by post, even making sure that we had 3 extra tickets to watch the match with our daughter.

On the day, we arrived 3 hours before kick-off and were taken through the media entrance to where all the FA staff gave us a warm welcome. They were just as excited for us as we were for being there! I got to meet Stuart Pearce but forgot to get a selfie!

After a short orientation, all the mascot were taken on a short tour to see behind-the-scenes at Wembley Stadium. This part was very exciting, as it included being able to welcome Gareth Southgate and the rest of the England players as they entered the stadium from the team bus.

The SJFA mascot commented that the players seemed a lot taller in real life, especially her favourite player, Harry Kane!

The children were then allowed to spend time on the Wembley pitch, including watching the player’s warm-up.

Then into the tunnel for the player’s entrance. As the SJFA mascot was the shortest she was put at the front and would enter with the Czech captain!

Then the big moment- my daughter described entering the stadium with the crowd roaring as the loudest, most exciting thing she had ever done!

As a parent I was given great seats facing the children as the national anthems played.

Whilst the children came out, I was heartened to read the positive comments on the official ITV twitter hashtag (#engcze) about the SJFA mascot appearance – with many commenting with approval about the message a young hijabi on the pitch sent out.

Once the match started, all mascots were brought to their seats so we could watch the match together. She was buzzing for the next few days!

Oh did I mention that England won 5-0?

Perhaps they need the duas that come from having a Muslim child on the pitch before every match?……

Amir Zaidi 
Tier 1 Coach and Proud Father