Good things, as the old adage wisely counsels, always come in small packages. So, when thinking of child protégés, Mozart, Liszt, Chopin and even Menuhin may spring to mind. In their youth, perhaps, Pele, Best or Messi might also scrape a mention. But what, I hear you wonder, of those of even more importance to the world of the arts and sport? The audience, of course, and the supporters. Without the oxygen of their interest the protégé could surely not exist. So, what then of the diligent and the dedicated who gild the terraces of the land? Wherefore art thou football fans extraordinaire? Step forward, if you please, Super Grecian Olivia Hancock. Aged 6.
Currently with Rugby Town Girls FC, she has already been playing football for a third of her life. During this time she has garnered two trophies and an award certificate for under 8 skills. For which, it should be noted by the scouts of ECFC Ladies, she gained the maximum score of six stars. This, one might think, is no mean feat for such tender years. However, it doesn’t even touch the sides of the sheer single-minded determination she displays in pursuit of football and, in particular, the team she adores.
Dragging her Dad, Gary, to various parts of the country, Olivia has become quite well known as an ardent Exeter City fan. Having been mascot at several away matches, she has won the admiration of the team along the way. Messrs Taylor, Noble, Tully and Dunne being mentioned in dispatches. Nor is she a stranger to St James Park, the home of real football, where she will be hoping to score as part of the Red Army penalty shoot-out at half-time in Tuesday’s pre-season friendly against Torquay.
All this, though, wasn’t sufficient to keep her footballing appetite sated. Not with the Olympics upon us. Keen to watch the opening game of the Team GB Women’s squad at the Millenium Stadium, she badgered her Dad to take her to Cardiff to see it. “We’re really excited, it’s going into the unknown” Gary said, “we’ll never see it again in my lifetime. Olivia hasn’t stopped talking about it.” It’s fair to assume she probably still hasn’t as the day turned out to be even more extraordinary than they had originally anticipated.
During a chance meeting with a Team GB Coach, they asked if Olivia could have her photo taken with one of the players. Surprisingly, they were told to go to the team’s hotel the following morning. Once there, not only did she get the pictures she wanted, but a second chance encounter elicited the hope of a further opportunity. Resplendent in her City white away top, Olivia was spotted by none other than the President of theBrazilian FA, Jose Maria Marin. Clearly not one to miss an opportunity, he asked if he could have his photo taken with her. When one of his entourage enquired if she liked Manchester United or one of the ‘bigger’ teams, she responded in true Grecian style.
“I love Exeter” she replied,
“we played Brazil, they haven’t”.
Recognising the important link between both City and his country, Senhor Marin observed that he would like Olivia to be part of the World Cup there as either a mascot or part of the opening ceremony. Although no promises were made, if ever there was a natural ambassador for Exeter City Football Club, then Miss Hancock must surely be it.
Tuesday 31st of July [time] Exeter City FC vs Torquay United FC. Let’s pack the Park and give Olivia some quality home crowd support at half-time …
Postscript: As well as impressing the team and away fans alike during her spells as mascot (Swindon, Bury, Tranmere, Notts County, MK Dons, Huddersfield, Sheff Utd, and Walsall (x3) ), Olivia’s footballing skills have also made a fan of Steve Perryman. The feeling is clearly mutual. Overhearing her parents discussing Steve’s recent illness, Olivia took it on herself to make him a Get Well card to wish him a speedy recovery. Clearly her wish was granted. However, I also know she has another wish. A wish that her dream to be a mascot at SJP comes true. Here’s hoping that somewhere out there a magic wand is waved …