When striker Georgios Samaras converted the late penalty to put Greece in the World Cup knockout stage for the first time ever, it made Jay Beatty, an 11-year-old Celtic fan in Northern Ireland, as happy as anyone in all of Greece.
Jay, who has Down syndrome, befriended the striker last season at Celtic. They first met when Jay was invited onto the team bus early in the campaign and sat there, arms around each other, signing "Hail Hail the Celts are Here" after Jay walked past all the other players to sit next to Samaras. At the end of the season, when Celtic were crowned champions of the Scottish Premier League, manager Neil Lennon gave Jay his winner's medal and Samaras carried him around the pitch as the 52,000 people at Celtic Park celebrated.
So when Samaras stepped up to the penalty spot to take the shot that would decide whether Greece made history or went home, Jay was giving him his full support while his father, Martin, filmed his reaction.
The video of Jay's celebration quickly found its way to Samaras in Brazil, who recorded a message of his own, thanking Jay for his support. "I'm very, very proud that you are my friend," Samaras said, adding that he hoped to see Jay soon.
After seeing this, Greek supporters rallied around Jay and started a campaign to get the Greek FA to reunite Jay and Samaras in Brazil for the round of 16 match against Costa Rica. From the Guardian:
The video led to a Greece supporter’s Facebook page calling for Jay to be flown out to the Costa Rica game and, after it attracted over 80,000 likes, the Greek FA offered to pay for the trip. But Jay’s family were forced to turn them down as they already had a holiday to the United States booked.
“This morning we got a call with a fantastic offer for us all to go to the World Cup to see the Greece game and Jay’s hero, Samaras,” said Jay’s father Martin. “Unfortunately, we were actually at the airport heading off on our family holiday when we got the call. So naturally we were unable to take up the offer and are so gutted, but truly grateful that people would do this for Jay.”
Though the Beatty family's travel plans prevented them from making the trip to the World Cup, Jay did record a message for his pal "Sammy" to say he was sorry he couldn't make it, but he still loves him very much.
And that is without a doubt the 2014 World Cup's greatest friendship.
- Sports & Recreation
- Georgios Samaras
- World Cup 2014