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Nicky's mascot experience

Nicky has been collecting Match Attax cards for a while now. Despite previously only showing a limited interest in football, he's now become very interested in it and we've been to see Southend play three times (each time he's been, Southend have scored three goals and won). With each pack of Match Attax you get a "Pro 11" card featuring a code which you can enter online and unlock digital cards to use online. The Champions League versions of these cards offer entry into a competition to be a mascot for a Champions League game. Nicky kept pestering me to enter these codes online, saying that he might win the star prize. As a cynical 36-year-old (the biggest prize I ever won was a set of Play-Doh from a local newspaper) I let him enter the codes, but told him that he was almost certainly not going to win anything.

So much to my surprise, a couple of weeks ago (the day we were traveling to Clacton) I got an email from Topps (the company who make Match Attax) with the subject MASCOT PRIZE WINNER! My initial reaction was that it had to be a joke of some kind, but the email address and everything checked out. I read through it several times in a state of shock, trying to take it all in! Nicky was going to be a mascot for the Leicester City vs Atletico Madrid Champions League quarter-final! I called Nicky over to show him the email, which unsurprisingly he was delighted by.

We drove up to Leicester last Tuesday (we had to take Nicky out of school for a half day, but the school were understanding), but I was still not completely certain that it wasn't a joke of some kind. It wasn't until they had ticked Nicky's name off on a list and handed me my ticket that I accepted that this was really going to happen!


I went through the turnstiles and found my seat. The King Power stadium is obviously a bit more modern than Roots Hall! Each seat had a flag and a fan-shaped noise maker on it. I was very anxious by this point, needlessly worrying about Nicky. I had been wondering if Nicky might be escorting Fernando Torres onto the pitch (when Nicky was but a bump I had been jokingly suggesting we name him Fernando - this was before he left for Chelsea, obviously!) but he was left out of the first 11. Just before the teams came out, everyone started waving the flags meaning that any photo opportunities were well and truly scuppered! I couldn't see much as they came onto the pitch, but I was just about able to tell through some bad photos that Nicky was on the Leicester side. Thankfully Mastercard had a photographer taking some much better photos!

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Nicky went onto the pitch with Wilfred Ndidi, a player I had not heard of before but he turned out to be pretty good on the night.

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They were only on the pitch for a minute or two, and then the game was on! Nicky appeared in the stands a few minutes after and was absolutely buzzing. The game itself was a lot better than the first leg, I felt that Leicester had done enough to win this leg but Atletico are an excellent team who defended well. I finally got to see Torres play when he came on in the second half, but he did nothing of note. I do remember pointlessly screaming at the ref several times! I haven't really been following football closely over the last few years but now Nicky has developed an interest I'm starting to get back into it.

When the final whistle blew we made our way back to the car, via the stall selling scarves outside (I had bought Nicky one on the way to the ground but had managed to lose it somehow before getting in the stadium! So I bought him another one). It took us about an hour to get out of Leicester and we didn't get back home until 1.30am. It was worth it though to see Nicky so happy and to have that experience - I'm so grateful to Topps and Mastercard for the prize and how they looked after Nicky. He got to keep the kit too so he's been showing it off at school!

Nicky did pop up on TV a few times - I tried to upload it to YouTube but they blocked it for copyright infringement, but it can be watched here. I've also put the full photo album on Flickr.

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