Why do kids escort football players?

Why do kids escort football players?


If you watch the pregame ceremonies of a football match, you’ve probably noticed a sweet detail: the players always walk onto the field holding the hands of kids, who are dressed like an adorable little squad themselves.


It’s a longstanding tradition rarely explained during international tournaments such as the World Cup, so if you’re curious about the history, you’ve come to the right place.

The children who walk out with the players are called “player escorts” or “mascot children,” and they’ve been part of football games for well over 20 years now.

How it all started

One of the earliest photos of children walking as mascots was published in the Liverpool Echo after a November 1996 match between Liverpool and Everton. Beginning around 2000, the practice as it is today began: one escort for each player, rather than just one or two per team.

Early on, the practice of having children escort the players doubled as a way to raise awareness for charitable causes. Ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, FIFA and UNICEF partnered on a program called Say Yes for Children, which aimed “to promote and protect the right of all children to healthy recreation and quality primary education,” according to a 2002 UNICEF press release.

The statement continued: “Children are being given a prime role at each match, accompanying each player onto the pitch in a symbolic action, reminding football enthusiasts that they have a major role to play in building a world fit for children.”

Starting in 2002, McDonald’s became a key sponsor of the mascot program at the World Cup and European Championships, offering parents and children a chance to enter a sweepstakes to win one of those coveted spots.

Why are footballers escorted onto the field by kids?

At the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, sponsor Commonwealth Bank will take the program to new heights. According to FIFA, the CommBank FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Player Escort Program will see 1,500 children between the ages of 6 and 10 accompany players onto the pitch before matches throughout the tournament.

  1. Tradition: The tradition of players walking onto the field hand in hand with children has been longstanding in football. It adds a touch of charm and nostalgia to the game, connecting current players with the sport’s rich history.
  1. Symbolism: Having children escort the players symbolizes the idea of passing the torch to the next generation of football enthusiasts. It represents the sport’s inclusivity and the importance of youth involvement.
  1. Charitable Causes: In the past, this practice has often been associated with charitable causes. Organizations like UNICEF have partnered with FIFA to raise awareness about children’s rights and well-being. This partnership has used the presence of children as mascots to promote social causes.
  1. Sponsorship: Some major tournaments, such as the FIFA World Cup and European Championships, have had sponsors like McDonald’s who offer opportunities for children to become mascots. These sponsorships have allowed kids from various countries to participate in the excitement of the tournament.
  1. Special Moments: Being a mascot offers young fans a unique opportunity to have a special moment with their favourite players. It creates lasting memories and inspires the younger generation to pursue their football dreams

Having kids escort soccer teams onto the field before a match is a tradition deeply rooted in the sport’s history. It serves as a symbol of continuity, supports charitable causes, and provides young fans with unforgettable experiences.

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