Nothing excites a budding young player to walk majestically from dressing room tunnel to the well-mowed field of play before a capacity crowd.
To escort a player prior to kick off in a major sporting tournament as the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is a real dream come true.
A typical stepping stone to many aspiring young sportsmen, many who yearn to play football professionally.
At the on-going 2019 AFCON tournament in Egypt, there are close to 1000 young player escorts who have proudly and diligently executed the job at hand.
Five young of these 1000 came from East African country, Uganda.
These included; Ryan Melone Rays Anzo, Patience Ogwang, Prince Musasizi, Ariana Kwizera, and Joy Tendo.
Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa were also represented as they donned in VISA branded shirts.
They were part of the pre-match arrangement as Senegal faced Benin during the first quarterfinal of the 2019 AFCON tourney played at the 30th June Stadium on Wednesday evening.
These lucky youngsters traveled with their parents who were selected during a raffle draw organized by Centenary Bank among their loyal customers who use the VISA services.
Both the parents and their accompanying children were accorded special VIP treatment right from the arrival at the Cairo International Stadium, their hotels, stadium to the final destination at 30th June Stadium in Cairo.
12-year-old Prince Musasazi, a Primary five pupil at Kampala Quality School shares with Kawowo Sports that escorting Benin’s forward Steve Michel Mounie, a professional player featuring for United Kingdom Championship club Huddersfield Town will inspire him.
First of all, I feel very excited having been with such a professional footballer (Mounie) at the African Cup of Nations. This will inspire me play football and also become one like him. Also stepping on the grass at the stadium was really great. I will never forget this day.Prince Musasazi, player escort at 2019 AFCON from Uganda
Another young player escort, Ariana Kweizera who walked to the field with French-born defender Moise Wilfrid Maoussé Adilehou (playing at Greek club Levadiakos) was left equally elated.
“I could not stop smiling when we meet the players. Before the game started, we first came to the stadium and toured then took photographs with our parents. It was a memorable experience and I wish we could come back again,” Kwizera disclosed.
The other child, Tendo Joy, a Primary one pupil at Hill Side in Kampala thanked the sponsors Centenary Bank and the organizers of the tournament, CAF for allowing them to visit the stadium and watch the Senegal – Benin game with their parent.
Tendo’s mother, Christine Nalukenge was very delighted seeing her daughter walking with a player to the playing field.
“This is a dream come true. I was full of smiles when Tendo walked to the field of play with a player at the Africa Cup of Nations. This is stuff I have been watching on Television back in Kampala. It is indeed inspirational and I thank the sponsors,” Nalukenge stated.
Other parents; Andrew Kasujja (father of Prince Musasizi) and Judith Nampeera (mother of Ariana Kwizera) hailed Centenary Bank and CAF for this once in a lifetime experience.
About Player Escorts:
Player escorts hold hands with the footballers while they walk in and stay with the player during the playing of the national anthem. The children are usually between 6 and 18 years old.
In addition to assisting players, they often have duties such as carrying flags, helping the sideline ball crew and playing matches with each other.
There are various reasons why players walk in with children. These include promoting children rights campaigns, bringing the element of innocence to the game, fulfilling children dreams or making a profit of it, and reminding players that children are looking up to them as role models.