The Ninth Confederations Cup Team

Everything you need to know about the Players’ Escort programme
14 February
Every big football match has children taking the players onto the pitch. This tradition was born in Europe in the 90s and has since become an inseparable element of every official game.

Since the launch of its football programme, McDonald’s® has given 10,000 children from around the world the opportunity to be part of major tournaments.

McDonald’s® is the official sponsor of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the Confederations Cup FIFA 2017 and has the exclusive rights to the programme “Going to the FIFA Confederations Cup together with McDonald’s”.
McDonalds first tried out its Player's Escort programme during the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™ © Popperfoto/Getty Images
More than 350 young football fans aged 6 to 10 will take part in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi. More than half of them come from orphanages, foster homes and large low-income families. The other children will be picked with the help of the McDonald’s Player Escort Programme creativity competition. These programmes allow children to fulfill their dream – go out onto the pitch of the main Champions matches with a football legend holding their hand.

In 2017 the McDonald’s ® children’s programme will take a new step: for the first time it will include children with disabilities.
Chidren participating in the Player's Escort programme get a unique oppertunity to get to know football stars and even help them put on the captain's arm band. © Jamie Squire - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

So how do you take part in the creativity competition? From February 6 to April 15, 2017 upload a photo to the competition website depicting the emotions of a child, alone or with a parent/parents during while practicing a sport or taking part in a sports event, games or competitions (including as a spectator), and fill out the application form. From April 16 till May 15, 2017 the jury will pick 47 best photos for every participating city. The names of the winners will be published at www.playmcdonalds.ru before May 15, 2017.

The 11 children who accompanied the Russian national team to the latest Euro Cup were picked by former team captain Sergey Semak. To do that, he had to study 3,500 works from the competition titled “Secrets of Morning Exercises”. All in all, children from 7 Russian cities went to France.
More than 10,000 children have taken part in the programme since 2002. © Bob Levey/Getty Images
Six year-old Ivan Vlasov was one of them – he escorted attacker Fedor Smolov onto the pitch for the match with England: “I will cherish this day as the best thing that has ever happened to me! I was escorting Fedor Smolov, our team’s attacker, and also before the match I said ‘Hello!’ to Wayne Rooney in English, and he replied ‘Privet!’ in Russian!”

The children come onto the pitch not just for matches of their national team. In 2004, Artyom Lantsov, 8, from St. Petersburg, wrote a poem which gave won him a ticket to the Euro Cup 2004 final match pitch. “The task was to write an story about football, and I did it in a poem,” Artyom says.

“This was the best final match between Portugal and Greece,” he recalls. “When it was time to go onto the pitch, it was all chaotic. Back then Luis Figo was the most popular player and we all ran to him, but I didn’t get him – some local kid did. I ended up escorting future Champion Takis Fyssas, I remember he has the number 14, he came and took my hand”.
88 children will be picked per city-host from the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 © Jamie McDonald / Staff
From the age of three Artyom has been doing rowing and skiing, but after the Euro Cup 2004 he asked his parents to sign him up for a football school.

"When I was 8, I didn’t really know much about football, and the only club I knew was Zenit,” Artyom said. “But after the Euros I joined a football group, although it didn’t last long there as a lot of my time was still devoted to rowing. I ended up joining the youth rowing team. But I will keep the memories of Estadio da Luz (a stadium in Lisbon. – Welcome2018) for the rest of my life."
Argentina captain Lionel Messi preparing to enter the field during the 2014 World Cup semi-finals the Netherlands. © Shaun Botterill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Russia’s forward Alexander Kokorin also escorted footballers when he was a kid. “We were very lucky FC Lokomotiv back then was in top form and played in the Champions Leagues a lot,” he said. “We had top clubs coming over – Inter, Dortmund, Barcelona, Arsenal… I was escorting players often, it was a great honour, everybody wanted that. The coolest thing to do was to escort an international star and ask him for some kind of memorabilia. I remember taking Jan Koller and Gennaro Gattuso onto the field. Some friend of mine got Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s jersey, and I convinced them to give it to me. Nowadays when I see the kids escorting players to the pitch I think about my own childhood days”.
In Russia, the tradition for children to escort players onto the pitch was born at the same time as in other countries – in the end of the 1990s. © Aleksey Krutov/TASS
"The programme is very useful both for young footballers and children,” according to Russia’s midfielder Denis Glushakov. “That moment when you enter the field with tens of thousands of spectators gives you great motivation, it’s very impressive. I never escorted players, only threw them foul balls during the game. When you’re on the pitch next to professionals it makes you grow and strive to achieve."

"McDonald’s in Russia has always supported social programmes, primarily in physical education and sports, promoting balanced nutrition and an active lifestyle. We are proud of the support we’ve been providing for more than 20 years now to the World Cup, making these events happen and recreating their atmosphere for our employees and clients,” says McDonald’s Russia President Khamzat Khasbulatov. “Today we have another reason to be proud: little fans of football with disabilities will take part in the “Going to the FIFA Confederations Cup together with McDonald’s”. This is another step for the company for a barrier-free environment in Russia, with equal opportunities for all children regardless of their health."