x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Abu Dhabi girl will never forget her Manchester City call-up

Grasping the hand of Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany as she ran out onto the Etihad Stadium was a moment schoolgirl Haleema Almarzooqi will never forget.

Grasping the hand of Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany as she ran on to the pitch in front of thousands of fans was a moment the schoolgirl Haleema Almarzooqi will never forget.

It was the first time the 10-year-old from Abu Dhabi had been to England, after winning a competition to lead the team out for Sunday's derby match with Manchester United.

"I was really excited to be the mascot for Manchester City," said Haleema, an Emirati who won the prize in an Etihad Airways competition. "I play football at school and really enjoy it.

"This was my first time visiting England. It was fantastic."

On the day of the match Haleema met the whole Manchester City FC team, including her favourite player, Sergio Aguero.

She was joined by her brother Mohamed, also a fan, for the three-day trip between December 7 and 10.

"It was a dream come true. When I was told, I was very happy and excited and hoping to go there," said Mohamed, 25, who lives in Abu Dhabi.

"Everybody called me and said you have the chance everybody dreams of, to be there like that."

Manchester City lost by one goal in the nail-biting encounter at Etihad Stadium, but it didn't dampen the excitement for the siblings.

"I was happy to see my sister running on the pitch with famous players," said Mohamed "It is something that will be stored in my memory forever. I took a lot of pictures."

The adventure also provided another first for Haleema.

"It was her first time on a plane. She was so excited," he said. "It was a strange thing but she was excited at the same time."

Mohamed had flown before, but it was also his first trip to England.

While there, the pair enjoyed a bus tour of Manchester and guided tours of the National Football Museum and Etihad Stadium, courtesy of Etihad.

"We found Manchester a beautiful and calm city," Mohamed said. "The weather was cold and raining. It was not a problem because we prepared for the cold. We had jackets and everything."

Entrants in last month's competition were asked to answer a question about Manchester City and the winner was drawn at random from more than 200 entries.

Mohamed received details of the competition on email and told his sister, who had to name the team's captain.

ecleland@thenational.ae