Mackenzie O'Neill, an 11-year-old from Southeast England, met one of his idols in a truly unexpected way
Imagine this: you’re a kid kicking around a soccer ball by yourself on a beach when one of the biggest soccer stars in the world appears and starts playing along.
Well that’s exactly what happened recently to Mackenzie O’Neill, an 11-year-old from Southeast England.
The young athlete, who plays goalkeeper on his his local team, was on vacation with his family at the Jumby Bay Island Resort in Antigua earlier this month when Argentinian soccer champ Lionel Messi gestured to the pre-teen to kick the ball around.
What followed was 40 minutes of play, in which O’Neill got to square off against one of his idols.
Messi, 32, plays as a forward and captains both Barcelona and the Argentina national team.
“I wasn’t nervous!” O’Neill told CNN. “I was a bit shy at first but then just did what I love doing best. It was incredible to see him move. He wasn’t bothered about actually playing, but the best part was I almost nutmegged him!”
Later, the two posed for a smiling photo together, which O’Neill proudly posted to his Instagram page on July 14. “Today a dream came true,” O’Neill captioned the shot.
O’Neill then followed up that post with video of the two playing together with Messi’s 7-year-old son Thiago (the athlete is also father to Mateo, 4, and Ciro, 1).
They trio played together over the next few days as their vacations continued, CNN reported.
“I realized that Messi really enjoyed seeing his son play with other children,” O’Neill told Argentine sports newspaper Ole, according to the Evening Standard — adding that Messi “acted like a normal dad.”
At the end of Messi’s stay, O’Neill attempted to gift Thiago with a soccer ball to keep, O’Neill told Ole, “but [Thiago] ran after me along the beach and insisted I keep it.”
“Afterwards, Messi and his wife said goodbye to me with huge smiles,” O’Neill told the outlet. “I am not going to forget them.”