A group of hearing impaired youngsters from Skopje savoured the thrill of a lifetime when they took part in the opening ceremony of last night’s UEFA Super Cup match – and the stars themselves enjoyed the experience of meeting them.
Ahead of the game in FYR Macedonia between Real Madrid and Manchester United, the group from the local state school for education and rehabilitation, DUCOR Partenija Zografski, came onto the pitch to perform a song by British band Coldplay, A Sky Full of Stars, in sign language.
The performance, together with the local Falsetto children’s choir and organised by the UEFA Foundation for Children, sent out a key message about the need to integrate children with disabilities in society.
On the eve of the showpiece occasion in Skopje, the delighted youngsters were able to meet and interact with players from both teams in the stadium.
The stars were impressed with them - "It's been a real privilege to see the enthusiasm that these kids have shown, and they're an excellent example of how hard work pays off with the skills they have shown,” said United’s midfielder Juan Mata.
“They always have a smile on their faces, and it was great to be able to experience something new and try to learn a bit of sign language,” Mata added.
Madrid hero Isco, whose second-half goal helped take the Spanish side to victory, agreed: "These children have been an inspiration,” he said, “and it's great that they have been given a stage to show to a wider audience what they can do.”
“It's great to be able to give something back to the kids,” added Isco, “but it's also interesting to learn a few things from them."
The youngsters themselves shared an experience that they will never forget. Here’s what they had to say about their big moment:
It was a very big event, and I still can’t believe that I was part of it! I love football, I love UEFA!
Samir Chehovich (18)
I'm still shaking, I can’t believe it! It was exciting, and I was proud and happy.
Feijma Ajvaz (18)
Training, rehearsals, meeting the players, the opening ceremony….everything was an adventure. We have been seen all over the world. I’m happy!
Ivana Trajlova (14)
It was a very beautiful time. All of the people around us were nice, everything was so good.
Sara Vladeva (17)
I'm happy and excited. I want to repeat it again. I want to say thank you to everyone.
Enis Asipov (12)
Yesterday I was shaking, my heart was beating, I wanted it to be our best performance. I’m very happy that such a nice thing happened to all of us. Love you UEFA!
Serpil Demirova (17)