“There was major excitement just to see the game, just to be there.”
Next Tuesday, the Irish women’s football team will take on Ukraine in Tallaght Stadium for the European Women’s Championships 2021 qualifiers.
Leading them onto the pitch ahead of the game will be a number of 20×20 mascots – and among them, eight-year-old Ava, a keen soccer player and avid fan of the Irish women’s team.
Earlier this week, mum Ann entered a competition for the chance to give Ava a spot as a mascot for the upcoming match – and she won.
Ann filmed Ava’s reaction to the news after she picked her up from school.
Her response garnered the attention of football fans around the country – and the world, even being shared around social media platforms in the States and Mexico.
“It’s just crazy,” says Ann. “It was something so simple and it’s just made her so happy.”
“The response has taken us all by surprise, our local newspaper have been onto us, and a Mexican football team shared the video.
“We had to use Google Translate to see what they were saying and it wasn’t anything about the match, it was just about Ava’s reaction.”
Ava first got into football when she started watching it with her dad.
He’s an avid Manchester United supporter, but these days, Ava’s more into the Irish soccer team herself – and more specifically, the Irish women’s soccer team.
The most recent match she attended was last month’s qualifier against Montenegro, where afterwards she met a lot of the team including Stephanie Roche and Louise Quinn.
“After the match, we presumed the trainers would be anxious to get the players in, but they gave the kids so much time,” says Ann.
“They went all around the edge of the stadium, signing autographs, taking pictures. It really made their day, it was an unbelievable time for the kids, it was amazing.”
Ava isn’t just mad about watching soccer though – she loves playing it too.
“Football has really become her passion,” says Ann.
“For the past two or three months, she’s been training so much and she absolutely adores it. The 20×20 competition has just been the icing on the cake.
“The excitement has been unreal, it’s insane. My husband is so calm, but I’d get so excited about even the little things that my children do. I’m bursting with pride for every little milestone but this has actually taken my breath away.”
Recently, Ava joined her local football club, Clondalkin Celtic Girls Academy.
They’re currently in the middle of trying to set up a team for younger players – as well as securing some sponsorship – which is how Ann found herself entering the 20×20 mascot competition.
“I decided to make my comment about the enthusiasm of the trainers and how much it means to the kids,” she said.
“They go from strength to strength every week, and they’re always smiling from ear to ear. From a parent’s perspective, it’s really amazing to see.”
Ava will lead the Ireland team out to the pitch ahead of their match against the Ukraine on Tuesday, October 8 in Tallaght Stadium.
She and her family already had tickets to the match, but Ann says that getting the opportunity to actually be involved in the event – and to be in such close proximity to her heroes – means the world to her.
“There was major excitement just to see the game, just to be there in the stadium,” she says.
“She was telling me that she wants to go to every match, and I said of course, absolutely, I’ll make it happen.”
As part of their campaign to championship sportswomen in Ireland, 20×20 are encouraging increased coverage of women’s matches and championships, as well as increased attendance at games.
Ann says that the extra coverage hasn’t gone amiss – for her or for her daughters.
“It’s so important,” she says. “If you look at the ads where they’re clocking up the figures about filling the stadiums, it makes my hair stand on end. The buzz about it is insane.
“I guarantee I’m not the only mother looking at that and getting excited.”
The Ireland team are targeting a record breaking attendance for Tuesday’s game. The match kicks off at 7.30pm in Tallaght Stadium.
20×20 is an ambitious two-year long initiative to better promote and champion women in sport.
With the tagline of “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it,” the 20×20 movement has three targets to reach by 2020:
- 20 percent more media coverage of women in sport
- 20 percent more female participation
- 20 percent more attendance at women’s competitions and events
And at Maximum Media, we’re proud that Her and SportsJOE is backing the 20×20 movement as official digital media partners.