If you enjoy soccer or football, you’ve probably noticed that players are frequently accompanied by small children as they enter the field. But have you ever thought about why that is? What is the significance of this? Now that you’ve considered it, this article will answer all of your questions about why kids play football with players.
Though you may have seen children walking out onto the field holding hands with players in a number of soccer matches, this tradition has been carried on by major team-based sports such as cricket in their pre-game ceremonies during the singing of each team’s national anthem.
The practice of players walking down the passageway with children onto the pitch is a relatively new concept, dating back to the 1990s. During some important games in the 1990s, such as the 1999 FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Newcastle, only one child or escort would accompany the entire team.
In the early 2000s, however, the tradition became more regular and mainstream, with one child assigned to each player among a full squadron of children accompanying both teams. The emergence of this concept can be traced back to FIFA’s announcement of a partnership with UNICEF in the “Say Yes for Children” campaign, which aims to improve and protect the lives of children.
The concept of kids walking out onto the field with players became a popular phenomenon with the 2002 FIFA World Cup, despite the fact that the Euro Championships in 2000 was the first major tournament for this tradition.
Most of the time, the same factor that helped to start this tradition is also a big reason why kids want to play football with players.
The FIFA-UNICEF partnership programme ‘Say Yes for Children’ was designed not only to raise awareness about the campaign but also to serve as a symbolic reminder to football fans about their important role in creating a world that is safe for children.
These campaigns, however, are not just for children. There have been times when soccer teams have walked down to the field with their parents, older community members, and even animals.
Players from the Netherlands’ Ajax team, for example, walked out onto the pitch with their mothers in honour of Mother’s Day in 2015.
In 2015, Sao Paulo FC players walked down the field as mascots with dogs as their mascots to raise awareness about the problem of stray dogs and to support the adoption cause.