Why Do Soccer Players Walk Out With A Child Before Games?

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If you have ever seen a soccer game, you would have noticed a pre-game ritual where the players from each team walk out with kids.

In some cases, all 22 players on both teams come onto the soccer field accompanying a child dressed in the team’s kit. In other cases, only the team’s captain and a select few players come onto the field in the company of a child.

These kids, called “match mascots”, “child mascots”, or “player escorts”, walk onto the pitch holding hands with the soccer players while they enter the pitch. They also stay with the players during the playing of the national anthem and pre-match announcements, as well as any ceremonial events that may happen.

If you’re an avid soccer fan, this ritual will be familiar to you. However, you may be wondering who these kids are, why they are involved in these games, and the significance of their presence in soccer games.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know about the question.

When did the player escort ritual start?

The player escort ritual has been part of soccer matches for decades. However, the original idea of having children export players come out onto the pitch was conceived way before it went mainstream and became popular in the late 1900s.

According to Kim Bellware of the Huffington Post, this unique pre-match tradition emerged in Brazil in the 1970s through Ronan Ramos Oliveira, who, at the time, was public relations director at Clube Atlético Mineiro. He suggested that children go to the field with the team’s players.

The first game that officially featured player escort was a match between two Brazilian clubs Atlético Mineiro and América Mineiro, which took place on September 5, 1976.

From here the tradition went mainstream, and by the mid-1990s soccer matches featured more player escorts. One of the first instances recorded of kids walking as mascots was recorded in the Liverpool Echo after a 1996 match between Liverpool and Everton. But back then, it wasn’t 11 kids walking out per team, mainly one or two.

However, beginning around 2000, the practice morphed into one escort for each player.

Who are these kids?

One of the most common questions asked about game mascots is if they are related to the players and if they get paid to appear in games.

For starters, the kids are not usually family members or related to the soccer players. However, the method through which they are selected can mean that a player’s family member is more likely to be chosen as a mascot. In fact, the first time the tradition was introduced the rule was that the selected children had to be lookalikes of a player. Additionally, the initiative served as a tactic to encourage more families to participate in the games.

Currently, it is not compulsory that the player mascots look like any of the players, although there are some instances where the players walk in with their own kids.

How are they selected?

The method of selecting those kids varies from competition to competition and could also depend on special occasions.

For example, in club games, the children are typically members of youth teams or winners of special contests that have been organized by the clubs or their partners.

In some cases, being a player escort does not come for free, as parents and guardians have to pay for their kids to appear with players in stadiums. A 2018 investigation by The Guardian revealed that several Premier League teams often charge between £150 and £600 for kids to be mascots. This practice has drawn criticism for overlooking kids from less wealthy backgrounds, even though the chance to be a player escort is not supposed to be about money.

Meanwhile, in events like the World Cup and other FIFA-organized matches, the escorts are selected in a competition hosted by McDonald’s, the sponsor of the event since 2002.

There are no set rules for each league or country about how player escorts are selected, although most countries have adopted the ritual of kids escorting players.

Are the kids paid?

Well, if you’re wondering if these kids are paid to escort soccer players, the answer is no. If anything, they directly or indirectly pay to qualify to be escorts. The benefit for the kids is that they get to attend special games, interact with stars, and possibly see themselves on TV.

The kids also feel like they’re part of the game as in addition to walking out with the players, they frequently fulfill various responsibilities including carrying flags, assisting the sideline ball crew, and engaging in matches amongst themselves.

Why do soccer players walk out with kids?

Apart from being a cute thing to do, the tradition of player escorts has some significance and adds flavor to soccer games.

The practice of having children escort the players has also been a way to raise awareness for charitable causes.

For example, ahead of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, UNICEF and FIFA partnered on a program called “Say Yes For Children”, whose aim was “to promote and protect the right of all children to healthy recreation and quality primary education.”

Having kids walk players out also helps to bring the element of innocence to the game, as well as reminding players that children are looking up to them.

Another good advantage is that it helps fulfill children’s dreams of walking out their favorite players and heroes, plus the clubs get to make additional revenue from the ritual.


Although the ‘player escort’ ritual has its critics, the tradition truly does more good than bad. It allows young fans to have a memorable moment with their favorite players. The players are also reminded that children look up to them as role models. 

The tradition also adds a family flavor to the game, reminding us that there is more to soccer than the outcome of the game. While this charming idea may be over 40 years old it has aged well, and for the sake of the game we love it should be maintained.

Article feature image source: Auflaufen HSV and Erzgebirge Aue players walk out with kids.

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