Lionel Messi: Football legend has Antigua beach kickabout with English boy, 11
23 July 2019, 09:28 | Updated: 23 July 2019, 18:38
An 11-year-old English boy has enjoyed the experience of a lifetime after playing beach football with Lionel Messi.
Mackenzie O'Neill was on holiday with his family in Antigua when a man he believed was the superstar's father Jorge asked him if he would like to play.
Mackenzie, who plays in goal for Faversham Strike Force FC, said they played a "full-on match" with "rush goalies" on the sand, with Messi and his son, Thiago, on one team.
"He was a really nice guy," Mackenzie said of Messi. "He looked happy to see me playing with his son and some other boys.
"He doesn't act like he owns the place, he just acts like what anyone else would act like."
His mother, Anna O'Neill, from Canterbury, Kent, said: "It was such a sweet experience. They're just a very normal family.
"I know it's terrible but I just thought, 'oh here we go, another footballer', but a million per cent he's just interested in his family and it was really humbling. What a lovely thing for this guy to do - he's on a family vacation."
Ms O'Neill, 41, said she had been looking after her 14-month-old toddler in her room at a private Caribbean resort when Mackenzie rushed in and said: "Oh my god, mum, Messi is on the beach".
His mother, who is not a football fan, said: "I was just like, who?"
After messaging her brother and googling Messi's name, she went to the beach to see the Argentinian with her son and the other children, where they had been playing for around half an hour.
The footballer could not have been more kind, she said.
"You can see he's very much in love with his wife - it's glorious to see. His wife is a very warm person and Messi definitely seemed confident and happy for Mackenzie to be hanging around with his family.
"As they left on their final day, Messi and his wife gave really lovely waves saying, 'bye Mackenzie, bye' and we all said thank you so much and cheerio."
Mackenzie added Messi, considered by many to be one of the greatest players in football history, is his favourite outfield player, but that he prefers goalkeepers.