Football star Lionel Messi inspires Jarrow girl to follow her dreams

A young football fan scored a winning goal when she wrote to her sporting hero Lionel Messi - and he sent her a signed shirt in the post.

Monday, 4th March 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 4th March 2019, 6:52 am
Epinay Business and Enterprise School pupil Kacie Leigh, 9 with her signed shirt and photograph from Lionel Messi

Nine-year-old Kacie-Leigh Lay was stunned when the Barcelona top - with a dedicated autograph featuring her name - arrived this week.

The youngster, who attends Epinay Business and Enterprise School in Jarrow, had written to the football star telling him he was her favourite player and how much she wanted to be like him when she’s older.

The shirt with Lionel Messi's message

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She says she had no idea when the letter was put in the post that she would receive a reply.

Football mad Kacie-Leigh said: “I wrote a letter to Messi and it was really good he sent me a signed shirt. I enjoyed writing the letter.

“I love football. I wrote to him as he is my favourite player.”

During a special assembly at the school, the Barcelona captain’s rise to fame was highlighted in an animated film of his life and Kacie-Leigh was asked to sit at the front of the hall with her signed top.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi

It is hoped his story - from being a schoolboy with health problems to one of the world’s greatest footballers - will go on to help inspire pupils at the school to also follow their dreams.

Headteacher Chris Rue said: “As part of one of the projects we have been running in school about building resilience with our pupils, Kacie-Leigh decided to write to Messi.

“It was really nice of him to send her a signed shirt and gifts. When she wrote the letter, she never believed he would reply.

“It shows what kind of person he is, and it’s great to have sports people to inspire us.”

As a child the Argentinian was diagnosed with a growth deficiency, but he didn’t let the diagnosis didn’t put him off following his dream.

At 13 he moved to Spain to join Barcelona - the team he has played for his whole career.

He has been presented with scores of awards over the years for his skills on the pitch.

At the age of 22, he won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award by record voting margins, and has been presented with the coveted European golden boot a record five times.

The 31-year-old is his country’s all-time leading goalscorer and is hailed as one of the world’s greatest players.

Kacie-Leigh, who hopes to one day become a football player, added: “When I am older I want to be like Messi. Thank you Messi.”