YOUNG Leilani Gosney is delighted after being made mascot for Pompey – one of the few words the youngster can say.
The five-year-old, who has Down syndrome, was given the opportunity to live out her ‘dream’ thanks to her favourite football club.
Pompey-mad Leilani struggles with her speech but can confidently say the club’s name, her mum Olivia said.
And Leilani couldn’t stop smiling as she walked out onto the pitch at Fratton Park as mascot for the opening game
Her parents – both Pompey season ticket-holders – watched from the touchline as she revelled among her Blues heroes.
Olivia, 43, said being a mascot was a ‘dream come true’ for her little girl.
‘She absolutely loved it. Brett Pitman picked her up and took her out on his hip before the game,’ she said.
‘Of course, Pompey won and he went on to score two goals, so we joked and said “that’s it, she’s his lucky mascot”.’
Mrs Gosney spoke highly of the efforts of the staff at Portsmouth Football Club, who selected her daughter as a mascot and stuck by her side on the day.
‘The club were absolutely brilliant. They have been supportive in bringing Leilani’s dream to life – helping us to feel confident in their ability to cope with her additional needs,’ Olivia said.
‘Showing Down syndrome in a positive light is so important to us.
‘The way Portsmouth Football Club help to promote inclusion for people with special needs is phenomenal.
‘I am so proud to be a Portsmouth supporter.’
Clare Martin, director of community projects at Portsmouth Football Club, organised Leilani’s day at Fratton Park alongside her colleague, Fiona Bristow.
Ms Martin said: ‘It’s days like this that make the job that we do worthwhile.
‘We work hard to try and make sure that we are positively inclusive.
‘We really encourage children who have special needs to come along and have a great time.
‘I would hate for any child to feel left out.’
Speaking as Leilani got the chance to meet the full Pompey team after the game, Clare added: ‘The players themselves are fabulous.
‘I have worked here for 17 years but to have a squad that is so amicable, friendly and quite frankly real is great.’