Pep Guardiola surprised a seriously ill former Manchester City ball boy before he returned to the Etihad Stadium pitch for the first time since his diagnosis.
Elliott Fernadez-Sanz, who’s fighting cancer, made an emotional trip to the Etihad for City v Everton after watching his beloved Blues train at the City Football Academy earlier in the week.
Whilst there the 19-year-old spent time with his hero Sergio Aguero, before being surprised with an unexpected visit from the City boss.
A lifelong Blue and a ball boy of nine years, Denton-born Elliott was forced to relinquish his role after being told he would never walk again due to a sudden diagnosis of sarcoma cancer, which left him on life support and just three hours from death.
Having pulled through and now undergoing chemotherapy, Manchester City worked with the Willow Foundation, which grants wishes for seriously ill young adults, to invite Elliott to watch his heroes train.
After a dream introduction to Aguero, the teenager’s special day got even better as the manager stopped by, having heard his story.
A former ball boy himself, Pep and Elliott reminisced about their time at pitch side, with the Blues boss explaining: “In Barcelona I was the same, it was amazing when I was 13, 14, 15.
“It was a dream to see the players score goals - how they speak, how they play. This is so difficult, but take it step by step and any time you need us, we are here.”
The brave youngster also had his own story to share as he recalled his part in City's dramatic Premier League winning victory over QPR in 2012. In position in his matchday role, it was Elliott who placed the ball on the corner spot before Edin Dzeko's equaliser.
The Everton game was the first time Elliott could return to the Etihad on foot and, to celebrate, he was taken onto the pitch at half-time where he was reunited with old friends.
Reflecting on a momentous day, he said: “It’s so important for me to go to the games, I really enjoy coming with my family. For me, it’s important to keep going – you can never keep me away from the Etihad.
“It’s been great to see the players training and meeting everyone, fantastic really, I feel really honoured. Thank you, I’m so lucky and I didn’t think I’d ever get to this point.”
Manchester City is proud to work with a number of wish-granting charities throughout the year and this season City in the Community is celebrating 30 years of making a difference to the lives of people in Manchester.
For more information about the Club’s community work, visit: www.mancity.com/community