The year 6 pupils were stunned during a lesson when their teachers, Miss Fedtschyschak and Miss Griffin, played a message from Bruno Fernandes announcing that the class had been chosen to be mascots for the Premier League fixture.
“Congratulations, Haslam Park School, you will be our first virtual mascots,” said Bruno. “We look forward to seeing you!”
Along with fans, mascots have been absent from Old Trafford since March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, but this opportunity will allow the pupils to enjoy a mascot experience like no other, from the comfort of their own homes with their families.
Following the message from Bruno, the pupils were presented with a mascot goodie bag each, which included a Manchester United shirt, scarf and bag, plus an official mascot certificate.
Wissal, 10, couldn’t contain her excitement at the surprise: “I thought today was going to be a normal school day; I never knew that Manchester United Foundation would come here and surprise us. I think this is amazing and it’s a really good opportunity for us.
“The video from Bruno shocked me because I never thought that a football player would talk to us; the whole class was so excited! Our teachers had to tell us to calm down, but inside I was so excited – you don’t even know how much!”
The virtual experience will also include the children being welcomed to Old Trafford by Fred the Red, a video tour of the stadium and message from club ambassador Denis Irwin, walking down the players tunnel, their names and pictures appearing on the pitchside LED boards during the match, a shout out by the stadium announcer and a feature in the matchday programme, of which they will each receive a copy.
Kati-Anne Roughley, headteacher at Haslam Park said: “This opportunity means so much to them, especially in the context of the year that they’ve had. When they saw the video message and got the kits they were so excited and they will remember this forever.
“It’s extra special for the kids to receive this at Christmas, too. We’ve missed out on a Christmas party so it’s nice for them to have something so special. A lot of our children don’t have football kits; they don’t have these special items so it means the world to me and, most importantly, the children.”
Haslam Park is a partner of Manchester United Foundation through its Primary Reds programme. Foundation coaches deliver weekly sessions to support the pupils’ mental and physical wellbeing, providing lessons centred around physical literacy, healthy eating and disability awareness.
Tom Sellers, primary schools manager for the Foundation, said: “The reaction from the pupils was amazing and they were over the moon with their goodies and excited to have that virtual mascot experience.
“Pupils at the schools we work with may not normally get that much for Christmas, so it’s nice for us to be able to provide them with this opportunity and the treats that go along with it. Hopefully this will help form a nice Christmastime for them.”