A record-breaking number of Americans (26.5 million to be exact) tuned in to watch Germany and Argentina compete in the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. But 8-year-old Kaylie-JadePlott was the only American to escort Lionel Messi onto the field before the match.
The Virginia native was one of 1,408 kids from around the world who were part of the McDonald’s Player Escort Program at the World Cup. She was one of 25 Americans chosen to be in the program, and the only kid from the United States on the pitch for the final match.
When she was told she would be escorting Lionel Messi — Argentina’s captain, a four-time World Player of the Year, and one of the best fútbol players on the planet — onto the field, she immediately recognized him.
“He was kind of quiet,” she says. “But he was nice. He smiled at me and even helped me on the field by turning me the right way.”
Kaylie-Jade had played soccer informally before, but had never attended a major sporting event. In fact, her trip to Brazil was the first time she traveled outside of the United States. When she entered Estadio de Maracana and heard the roar of more than 74,000 boisterous fans, she was overcome with emotion.
“At first, I felt like I was going to faint,” Kaylie-Jade says. “There were so many people and everyone was screaming and chanting.”
After walking Messi out onto the field, Kaylie-Jade was able to stay and watch the match. She also made a friend: Luana Camino from Peru, another player mascot. Before the two parted ways, Luana gave Kaylie-Jade a blue, pink, and orange BFF bracelet.
The trip to Brazil provided Kaylie-Jade with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the biggest sporting event in the world. But along with the other kids in the program, she also had a chance to learn about Brazilian history and experience the culture first-hand.
Kaylie-Jade walked along Brazil’s beautiful beaches and visited Sugarloaf Mountain – a peak that rises 1,299 feet above the harbor. The also visited the iconic Christ the Redeemer Statue, which was built between 1922 and 1931.
In the midst of her sightseeing, Kaylie-Jade made some time to discover new foods. “The ice cream was definitely the best,” she says. “It was delicious.”
Kaylie-Jade said that while she was sad to go home, she’s looking forward to her next adventure. Her trip has inspired her to travel to more exotic places and attend more sporting events.
So what’s first on the list?
“The next World Cup!” she says.
Photos courtesy McDonald's