Mike Geary, Head of City in the Community, reflects on an incredible moment and the ripple effect it had.
Finlay was taking part in a disability tournament at the City Football Academy and he had no idea that Jack was coming down to see him. He just lit up when he saw Jack – Finlay’s such a bubbly character! Then, the celebration thing happened, and again it was Jack's idea. He asked Finlay about doing a celebration for him the next time he scored, and the two of them came up with it together. There was a couple of league games to go before the World Cup, but Jack didn’t score.
Then, it got to the World Cup and he scored against Iran. I'm sitting thinking ‘Is he going to remember?’ All the other players jumped on Jack after the goal and I thought, ‘Oh, he's forgotten’. I mean, it was the World Cup – you'd forgive him if he hadn’t remembered! Then he turned to the camera and did the celebration. Instantly, my phone, and all our staff members’ phones, just started lighting up! ‘Oh my God, have you seen this?!’
Then it just went crazy. Finlay was on every TV channel and radio show under the sun. Even after the game, Jack wanted to FaceTime Finlay from the team hotel. No one asked him to do it. When Jack came back from the World Cup, he hosted Finlay and his family in a box at the Etihad. No publicity – just a conscious decision to share the moment with Finlay and his family.
A lot of the City in the Community stories happen within the ‘Man City world’ – and it’s just the fans of the club who see them. But Finlay and Jack’s story not only reached a huge football audience, but touched non-football people, who were just watching the news. It shone a light on what we do for disability football, in particular. One of our core values as a charity is inclusivity and Finlay is just one of thousands of young disabled people who access our programmes week in, week out.