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Russia’s national football team delights fans, fulfills dream of 11-year-old disabled girl

June 14, 23:57 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Polina became the first person with disabilities to take part in the FIFA World Cup Player Escort Program

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© Mikhail Metzel/TASS
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, June 14. /TASS/. 11-year-old wheelchair-bound girl Polina Haeretdinova, taking part in the "To 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with McDonald’s ®" campaign, escorted onto the pitch Russian national team captain, Igor Akinfeev, during the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Polina became the first person with disabilities to take part in the FIFA World Cup Player Escort Program.

The girl has already participated in the 2017 Confederations Cup game between Russia and Portugal at Moscow’s Spartak stadium. On that day, she revealed her life-long dream - to stand on her feet during the upcoming World Cup. The dream has become true thanks to Polina’s determination, skill of doctors at the Children's Republican Clinical Hospital of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ronald McDonald House Charities and, of course, the McDonald’s children program.

Footballers of the Russian national team helped the girl to fulfill her dream, and Polina, assisted by team captain and CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev and Zenit St. Petersburg player Yuri Zhirkov, managed to stand on her feet, albeit for a short while.

Polina’s participation is a yet another step on the way to creating barrier-free environment for people with disabilities in Russia and to giving equal opportunities to all children without exception.

The McDonald’s program gives children aged between six and ten a chance to fulfill their dream. More than 10,000 kids from various countries have taken part since the program began in 2002. Russian children joined the project in 2004. Out of 400 kids, about 350 took part in the domestic 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, hosted by four Russian cities - Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan and Sochi.

The participants were selected in different competitions, encouraging children to take up sports or develop their creative skills. At various stages, the jury of the McDonald’s competition included well-known Russian football players, such as Stanislav Cherchesov, Alexey Smertin, Andrey Tikhonov, Sergei Semak, Sergey Ryzhikov, Roman Shishkin, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Vladimir Bystrov, Evgeni Aldonin, Yuri Zhirkov, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Sergey Rodionov, Andrey Pyatnitsky.

In total, 1,408 children, including 1,273 little Russians, have been selected for the "To 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with McDonald’s ®" campaign. The children will walk hand-in-hand onto the pitch with football stars during the 2018 FIFA World Cup games. McDonald’s is the tournament’s official partner and supports orphans and children with disabilities. More than 100 participants of the project are being raised in orphanages, foster homes and adoptive families.

The World Cup player escort will also include 11 children, who had received awards for their heroism as part of the "Hero Children" project, carried out by the Federation Council and the Russian Union of Rescuers.

McDonald’s has been supporting global football for more than 25 years. The company has become the official sponsor and the official restaurant of the FIFA World Cup during the 1994 tournament in the United States.

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