Nottingham Forest make young Spanish fan's dream come true

15 Nov 2023
Elanga, Barriuso

Thirteen-year-old Jesus, who has autism, enjoys magical experience as a mascot

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For 13-year-old Nottingham Forest fan Jesus Barriuso Souan, connecting with people, especially those his own age, can prove a struggle.

Jesus, who has autism, flew over from his home in Spain for a special first visit to the City Ground and to be a mascot for the match against Luton Town for his birthday - and his dad says the positive impact has been immeasurable.

"What you are seeing is very rare," said Jesus Barriuso Varona. "He usually does not speak, does not speak to anyone, even rejects eye contact. I'm amazed right now that he's interacting.

"It is a super, super, super special day because I am seeing him being independent, which he usually is not. With what he usually does and what he has done today, I think yes [his health can improve after the visit]. That has been wonderful for him."

Jesus, who also lives with a psychotic disorder that requires a lot of medication, was given a behind-the-scenes tour of Forest's stadium, including a visit to the trophy cabinet of the two-time European champions.

He then met his heroes including Chris Wood and Morgan Gibbs-White, before the highlight of his trip - walking out with the team alongside his idol Anthony Elanga.

An expert on the English football league pyramid, Jesus was interested in Forest but that went up a level when the club ended a 23-year exile from the Premier League. 

"I have always had sympathy for Forest, because it is a club that is humble, not being in the Champions League or top of Europe, but with a lot of history and with many values," he said in an interview with Marca

"Football means everything to me," Jesus added. "Every time we lose, I'm super sad. And every time we win, I get extremely happy." 

Jesus Barriuso leads team out
Jesus Barriuso, team line-up

Forest went all out to make his visit one to remember and even beamed Jesus's name up on their scoreboard.

Jesus has Mexican heritage, and his special trip was arranged by the Premier League's Mexican right-holders Paramount+, along with Forest. 

Barriuso scoreboard

After the entertaining 2-2 draw with Luton, Elanga - who set up both Forest goals - presented Jesus with a personalised home shirt that had the youngster's name on the back.

"I love you more than my father!" Jesus told his idol.

"I love you too," replied Elanga, before bidding farewell to Jesus and his father, bringing a special day to a fitting end.

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