The heartwarming story behind Jack Grealish’s World Cup goal celebration

England’s sixth goal was dedicated to young fan with special connection to the City midfielder

Liam James
Monday 21 November 2022 16:52 GMT
England's Jack Grealish's goal celebration in honour of young City fan with cerebral palsy

Jack Grealish honoured a promise to a young fan with cerebral palsy by celebrating his goal in England’s first match of the 2022 Qatar World Cup with an arm-wiggling dance.

The Manchester City midfielder scored England’s sixth goal of the national team’s stunning 6-2 opener against Iran, knocking it in from a set-up by new forward Callum Wilson.

Grealish then stopped on the spot and performed the celebratory dance, as he had sworn he would to 11-year-old Finlay, a huge fan of the Premier League champions.

Weeks before England flew to Doha, Finlay sent the Brummie a letter calling him his favourite player and a “hero”. The young fan has cerebral palsy, a condition Grealish’s sister Holly also has.

His original letter to Grealish read: “I wish there were more people in the world just like you who treat people with disabilities the same as anyone else.

“It makes me really happy when I see that you, a famous footballer, knows what it’s like to live with people with cerebral palsy.

“You’re my hero and the best big brother to your sister.”

Grealish dances after scoring in Qatar

Another view of the City star’s celebration for Finlay

The footballer wrote back: “Finlay thank you for saying kind words about me being a good brother to my sister.” He also sent a signed city shirt.

The pair later met as part of a Premier League initiative called “Fan Mail”, which saw Grealish travel to Finlay’s local amateur football club as a surprise.

Grealish told Finlay he was “really touched” by the letter and offered him a high-five, going on to promise that he would do a special goal celebration of the 11-year-old’s choosing.

After the professional refused Finlay’s first choice – “I can’t do the worm” – the pair agreed on an arm waving celebration before hugging goodbye.

Weeks later Grealish proved he was serious, turning to the camera after scoring in the 89th minute of England’s first match in Doha and wiggling with a grin on his face.

Grealish with England manager Southgate at the close of the match

Grealish scoring at the Khalifa International Stadium

The moment did not go without notice, as the online response showed. BBC Sport soon after tweeted: “What a celebration from Jack Grealish 11-year-old Finlay asked him to do this celebration if he scored at the World Cup... he delivered!”

The official Premier league account followed with a smiling face emoji and noting the midfielder had “kept his promise to Finlay”.

England manager Gareth Southgate sent Grealish on against Iran in the 71st minute, one of three substitutes in a major switch-up of the Three Lions’ attacking line along with Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford.

Grealish’s goal was England’s second past Iran’s substitute keeper Seyed Hossein Hosseini in the second half after one from Manchester United forward Rashford, who scored within seconds of taking to the pitch on a set-up from captain Harry Kane.

The goals came after an extraordinary first half which saw 15 minutes of stoppage time due to Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand’s concussion, while England tore ahead with an opening goal from Jude Bellingham followed by one from Bukayo Saka before Raheem Sterling put a third away to close the half with an insurmountable lead.

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