Friday 15 February 2013
A young football fan from Birmingham came face to face with his hero, Darren Bent, and got to lead him and his team-mates out at a packed Villa Park when he became an official Barclays Premier League mascot for Aston Villa last weekend.
"Being an official Barclays mascot was a dream come true"
Khalid Egal, 12, led the Villans out in front of the television cameras for their home match in the Barclays Premier League against West Ham United on 10 February.
The youngster from Saltley has been regularly attending sessions at the Green Lane Playing Fields, Barclays Spaces for Sports site, in Bordesley Green, for the past two years and, despite being a big Aston Villa fan, had never been to a Barclays Premier League match.
His first visit proved particularly memorable as Villa moved out of the relegation zone after beating Sam Allardyce’s side 2-1.
“Being an official Barclays mascot was a dream come true,” said Khalid. “I like playing football at Green Lane and it was really fun to get to go onto the pitch at Villa Park.”
Khalid was given the opportunity thanks to Barclays Spaces for Sports, who have built 200 community sports sites in partnership with the Football Foundation.
The programme uses sport to revitalise disadvantaged communities and tackle key social issues by helping young people develop a range of life and employment skills. It is part of Barclays community investment programme and wider citizenship agenda.
“The site is very proud of the benefits it brings to the local community and is honoured that Barclays Spaces for Sports has given the special chance of being a Barclays Premier League mascot to an exemplary participant at our site,” said Paul Kenna, development community coordinator at the Green Lane Barclays Spaces for Sports site.
A Barclays spokesman said: “Barclays Spaces for Sports are delighted to have been able to provide this unique opportunity for Khalid to be an official mascot of the Barclays Premier League game between Aston Villa and West Ham United.
"It is great that the programme is able to support the many thousands of participants at its 200 sites across the country with Barclays sponsorship of the Premier League.”