When Nathania met Neymar and Coutinho

Nathania John, the Official Match Ball Carrier (OMBC) for Brazil’s group stage clash against Costa Rica in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia, seemed to have enjoyed every bit of her time at the St. Petersburg Stadium. 

A huge fan of Barcelona, Nathania's dream of meeting a player from the La Liga powerhouse came true at this year's FIFA World Cup.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

To most football enthusiasts, seeing their favourite player live in action is a dream; meeting them in person a far-fetched longing at times. However, 11-year-old Nathania John had an opportunity to do both.

Nathania was chosen as the Official Match Ball Carrier (OMBC) for Brazil’s group stage clash against Costa Rica in the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Russia and she seemed to have enjoyed every bit of her time at the St. Petersburg Stadium.

READ| Tamil Nadu's Nathania set to have a ball at the World Cup in Russia

A huge fan of Barcelona, her dream of meeting a player from the La Liga powerhouse came true. “It was a dream come true to meet a Barcelona player. I shook hands with Neymar and even got a chance to speak to Philippe Coutinho! I asked him about Messi and he laughed and asked me if I’m a Barcelona fan. When I said yes, he asked me to continue to support the club and then he had to go. I also shook hands with Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Keylor Navas and Bryan Luiz, it was a really nice moment for me,” she says in one breath, barely able to contain her excitement.

Nathania: "The experience was awesome and has inspired me. Seeing the stars in real life made me tremble."   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

“The experience was awesome and has inspired me. Seeing the stars in real life made me tremble. We see them on the TV but looking at their faces in real life made me very happy. I was crying out of joy on the inside,” says an ecstatic Nathania.

Coming to her moment in the limelight - when she carried the ball onto the pitch before kick-off-, Nathania is quick to point out there were 64,468 people at the stadium that evening – a number she knows by heart. “Going on the field with the ball was scary and nervous because the whole world was watching. I was trembling because there were so many people! We used a replica ball in the rehearsals but the real ball I held during the game was a little slippery. My hands were sweating and I nearly dropped the ball at one point. I was scared but in the end, I pulled it off,” she says.

READ| When an Indian kid nearly bumped into Iker Casillas at World Cup

And the match that followed was exhilarating, she adds. “The match had everything in one package. There was drama, fouls, goals, everything. Those two goals in the dying minutes, Neymar doing a rainbow flick and a bicycle kick by Marcelo. It was amazing.”

The experience has left Nathania with a drive to work hard and improve her game. “I want to train hard and play well. EPL clubs have many facilities for women and they get equally paid as the men. My dad’s an Arsenal fan, so maybe I’ll try for Arsenal. I also want to play for Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur,” she says while stating that she’s dribbling a football as we speak over the phone.

“I want to play somewhere where both genders have equal rights. Football is seen as a men-centric game but I think it’s a game for everybody, it’s just about talent, skill, and passion,” she adds.

The 11-year-old certainly does have big dreams, but now she has a bigger task at hand after her life-changing experience in Russia - to go back to school.

  Dugout videos