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Why Do Soccer Players Walk Out With A Child?

Why Do Soccer Players Walk Out With A Child?

There are many things to learn from the game of soccer aside from just entertaining ourselves. When you become aware of the significance of certain practices in soccer, you will begin to see the sport differently—and probably appreciate it more.

Key Takeaways

  • There is still no official statement from soccer authorities explaining why soccer players walk out with a child
  • The closest guess was that it was FIFA’s way of showing solidarity for the UNICEF’s ‘Say Yes for Children’ campaign
  • Kids who walk out with soccer players are also called child mascots
  • It is an effective way of rebranding the violent image placed on soccer by previous soccer tournaments as well as promoting unity
  • Some soccer clubs use it as a means of revenue generation

Have you been wondering why professional soccer players often enter the pitch holding hands with young children?

Some soccer fans start watching the game when the action has already begun but if you happen to be one of the early birds that tune in before the players start coming out from their dressing room, you must have seen this several times.

Soccer is a sport designed to promote kindness, friendship, and unity. So such a practice shouldn’t look strange to you. An act like that will surely warm the heart of viewers and make them love soccer more, even when they aren’t initially fascinated by the sport.

Most kids, especially those who love soccer and have soccer players as their heroes wouldn’t miss an opportunity to walk professional soccer players into the pitch. The feeling hits differently when the player they are accompanying into the pitch is their favorite soccer star.

Granting children an opportunity to walk onto the pitch with their soccer heroes might just be all the motivation they need to strive towards becoming professional soccer players themselves.

We are about to dig up the history behind this soccer practice so you can further understand exactly why this practice is still in vogue.

substitute soccer players are sitting on the bench

Why do soccer players enter the pitch holding the hand of a child?

Soccer players usually walk into the pitch holding hands with smiling and cheerful-looking kids. These kids are usually aged 5 to 13 years and are expected to stand in front of the soccer player during the singing of the anthem before walking out of the pitch.

This practice is most common during professional soccer tournaments like the FIFA World Cup which is undoubtedly the biggest soccer event in the world. We shall be looking at the significance of this practice in the world of soccer right after we are done unfolding its history.

History of soccer players entering the pitch in the company of a child

It has always been a common practice in soccer since the 1990s for players to walk into the pitch with children during a soccer match. However, some teams sometimes prefer to walk out with a club mascot instead of with children.

These kids are also referred to as child mascots and they have been a sight to behold since they were introduced into the world of soccer. In the mid-1990s when this practice first started, only a few kids walked players to the pitch during matches unlike what we have today.

Fans were perplexed while viewing the European Championships in 2000 when they witnessed kids walking out into the soccer pitch with soccer players. Explanations weren’t given to fans initially for this development and even to this day, some soccer fans can’t still explain why this is practiced in soccer.

When official explanations weren’t forthcoming, some soccer enthusiasts concluded that kids were showcased because the European Championships in the year 2000 was co-hosted by 2 countries; Netherlands and Belgium. It was the first time such a thing was witnessed in the European Championships.

Some people even imply that kids ushered players onto the pitch because FIFA initially declared that it was partnering with UNICEF to host the 2002 World Cup. Back then, UNICEF was also running a campaign titled ‘Say Yes for Children’ which perfectly tallied with the unfolding event at the Championship.

That campaign was aimed at improving and protecting the lives of children all over the world. People only started paying interest to this practice again when it continued beyond 2002.

Did this practice continue beyond 2002 because it was good for the image of soccer or are there other underlying reasons and significance? Keep reading to find out.

Soccer players walk out the field with childs

Importance of players walking into the soccer pitch with children

Child mascots are among the many side attractions of soccer, although less is known about this soccer practice by casual fans. Let’s closely look at four of the major reasons why children walk out with soccer players on the pitch.

1. Fostering unity

Soccer trophy

Soccer is a family-friendly and unifying sport—at least that is the image that FIFA wants to portray. The fact that players walk out on the pitch with children cements that idea.

Having each player walk into the pitch with a cheerful child transmits the idea of love and friendship into the minds of viewers.

In the past, soccer games were considered violent and unsafe for children to view from the stands. Back then, fights broke out easily among fans during soccer games. Occurrences like this haven’t been completely wiped out of modern soccer yet, but it isn’t as bad as it used to be.

Players walking out with children shows that the era of needless violence during soccer matches has passed. Parents now bring their kids to cheer their favorite soccer team to victory, knowing that their safety is guaranteed.

Soccer now looks kinder and child friendly because of this simple act. Fans these days are very careful not to incite violence in the stadium during matches knowing that kids might get hurt if anything goes wrong.

Some clubs even go as far as inviting kids from their local communities to play this role just to foster unity and bonding among the locals. This also creates a connection between kids and their local soccer teams.

2. Motivating children to become professional soccer players  

Kid are playing soccer while wear shin guards

Have you ever imagined what your career choice would be today if you had a one-on-one moment with your childhood icon? This same effect is what FIFA is trying to create by giving kids a chance to meet their soccer idols.

Children all over the world love playing, watching, and talking about soccer but most of them don’t pursue the dream of becoming professional soccer players. They sometimes need a little push, motivation, or nudge to consider that route.

Most kids who adore soccer would like to play like their soccer idols someday. Walking out on the pitch with their soccer idols can make them hold tight to such a dream, unlike other kids who didn’t get such an opportunity.

This also increases their boldness and confidence which can be witnessed when you see them talking to their mates about the experience. Wayne Rooney, the famous English soccer prodigy was once a child mascot for Everton players in their 1996 game against Liverpool.

We believe that playing the role of a child mascot helped Rooney in his quest to become a professional soccer player. This act might seem little but the effect is undoubtedly massive.

3. Creates an avenue for child-aimed campaigns

kid soccer players celebrate their win

It’s not every time that children walk out with soccer players just for aesthetics. Sometimes, such an act is used for child-driven campaigns aimed at improving the welfare of children all over the world.

When such campaigns are run, kids are kitted in soccer jerseys designed to promote such a course. The UNICEF “Say Yes for Children” campaign was an instance where we experienced the effectiveness of using child mascots in soccer for campaigns.

Many other campaigns have been carried out to create awareness about other issues concerning children using the same technique. Child mascot campaigns in soccer are usually very effective because soccer games get viewed by a lot of fans.

4. Revenue generation

a soccer player with a ball and some money

Although child mascots are often selected by charities or after winning a competition, some clubs allow kids to pay money for a chance to play this role. As part of their “on-field experience’, MLS teams like the Chicago Fire and D.C. United offers such a paid experience.

Some clubs exploit the desperation of parents and kids by raising the price of such an experience. It was on the news some years ago that an English club charged as much as $800 to offer kids this experience.

This made it difficult for families from poorer backgrounds to afford thereby giving the act a bad image. Some fans find it hurtful for clubs to demand money from parents to offer such an experience to their soccer-loving kids.

With the amount of money generated by soccer clubs from sponsorships and sales of merchandise, parents would be happier if such a thing is declared free. Soccer clubs need a lot of money to run successfully though. So, the charges for mascots are somewhat logical as a means of revenue generation.

Is it only kids that soccer players walk out with?

Although it occurs in rare situations, soccer players sometimes walk out into the pitch with their mothers, dogs, and even older players. It is often witnessed when clubs have a statement to make or to support a campaign.

Soccer legends are sometimes celebrated and appreciated that way for all their effort and sacrifices toward promoting soccer. It is both interesting and emotional to watch soccer players walk out with their mothers.

In 2015, Ajax soccer club celebrated Mother’s Day by permitting each starting team player to walk out into the pitch with their moms before kickoff. Ajax went on to win that match—and it may have something to do with the players being more motivated not to let their mothers down.

Preston North End invited Bernard Jones in 2018 to act a role as their mascot for the season’s opening game. He was delighted to have been offered such a privilege by a team he has made lots of sacrifices for. Preston also went on to win that match.

Sao Paulo, a Brazilian soccer team was also accompanied into the pitch in 2015 by 11 dogs. They did it to support the thoughtful city-wide initiative encouraging people to adopt more stray dogs.


The act of soccer players walking out onto the soccer pitch with children has often been misinterpreted by curious soccer fans over the years. We believe the practice has continued beyond the 1990s because it benefits both kids and soccer clubs.

From the look on their faces, you can also tell that players also feel elated when they get walked into the pitch in the company of kids. With all the positive benefits of this creative soccer tradition, we believe it will continue as long as soccer exists.