We tracked down the little Wales fan whose brilliant goal celebration went viral
Imagine your first away game being Wales’ first appearance at a World Cup in 64 years. And then imagine you appear on TV celebrating your favourite player scoring in front of the watching millions at home.
This emotional high is exactly what seven-year-old Mason Richards, from Bridgend, experienced, demonstrating how we all felt when Robert Page’s side salvaged a draw against the USA
One of the youngest members of The Red Wall he might be, but Mason exhibited all the sheer passion, emotion and joy of a diehard Wales fan.
His clenched fist celebration beamed around the globe captured the hearts of football fans everywhere and made an impromptu star of the football mad lad.
The Coety Primary School pupil was at the game with his dad Alex, a Cardiff City fan and Wales Away regular, who had booked a holiday to World Cup for the family as soon as tickets for the tournament became available.
Basing themselves in Dubai, and commuting across to Doha for the games, Alex, 33, who is an electrical engineer, and mum Kelly Downey, 32 who works for Welsh Government, couldn’t wait for Mason to experience this special moment in Welsh football history.
To say they’ve made lifelong memories would be an understatement.
“I bought Mason a World Cup qualifying tournament ticket for home games at Cardiff City Stadium and I always promised him I’d take him on an away trip,” says Alex.
“When we qualified I wanted to bring the family out to a World Cup because it’s something I haven’t experienced, neither has my brother or my father, so they’re also out here with us and my brother’s girlfriend and my mother as well.
“As soon as everything was confirmed after we beat Ukraine to qualify for the World Cup, we tried to get accommodation in Doha, but it was too expensive, so we looked around and decided it was better to stay in Dubai and travel across for the games.”
Come the day of the first game Alex says he and his son couldn’t contain their excitement.
“Waking up and getting ready it didn’t feel real. When the flight from Dubai landed in Doha and we made our way into the city centre and we saw all the World Cup merchandise and all the statues and all the players on the skyscapers it started to feel real.
“Then we went to where all the Wales fans were, it was brilliant to meet up with people who I see at home and away games. And then getting to the stadium, the atmosphere inside was electric. It was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Mason was so excited and so was I. And then when we all sang the anthem we were all in tears it was so emotional.”
Alex was sat with Mason and those lifelong friends who he had watched Wales with for years, making it even more special.
“It’s been crazy,” he says. “I follow Wales home and away with my friends and we thought it was something we’d never see. I have to tell Mason it’s not always like this, but this is all he’s ever known.
“I remember the disappointment of not qualifying for Euro 2004 when I was eight or nine,” he adds. “So to be there with my mates and my boy was something else.”
Alex jokingly calls taking Mason to watch Wales play ‘character building’ and adds his son has had a Cardiff City season ticket for two years, “so he’s used to not always winning”.
Mason and his dad needed every ounce of self-belief as Wales struggled to contain a dominant USA side, Robert Page’s side lucky to go into half-time 1-0 down.
The second half was to be a completely different affair – and when Mason’s favourite player Gareth Bale equalised from the penalty spot, the youngster’s passionate, fist-pumping celebration was caught on TV screens, much to the amusement of father and son.
“The first time Mason was on the screen was when Ben Davies almost scored with a header,” says Alex.
“Then after the penalty we saw ourselves on the screen again and that’s when my phone started buzzing and buzzing and buzzing with friends and family telling us we had been on TV.”
Asked where Mason gets that passion from, his dad says: “I think he just gets what being part of the Red Wall means. I love following Wales home and away, and I wanted to share that with him. It’s everything – the identity, the culture, the language, the sense of community. He loves all of that. It just brings everyone closer to that connection with their country.”
When @GarethBale11 makes your sons life ❤️🏴 A night Mason won’t forget! #FIFAWorldCup #WalesAway pic.twitter.com/nwoRb3b9HU
— Kelly Downey (@19KellyAnn90) November 22, 2022
As for football-mad Mason, who plays for Bridgend Town under-8s, he found his appearance on the big screen great fun.
“Daddy was sweaty and I was famous,” he laughs, much to his dad’s amusement. “It was brilliant.
“I think all my school friends are going to want to talk about it with me.”
And finally, a couple of predictions from the young Wales fan.
Does he think Cymru can win the World Cup? “Kind of. There are lots of good teams like France, Brazil and Germany, but you never know.”
And the score on Friday against Iran?
“4-1 to Wales,” he says without hesitation.
Now imagine Mason’s celebrations if Wales score four goals.
We can only hope we get to find out.
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Such a pleasant change to read a happy story on Nation.Cymru!
OMG you got the interview everyone wanted. Legend.
If someone doesn’t make this kid a t-shirt with a cartoonised image of his cheering face and the quote “Daddy was sweaty and I was famous,” there is something wrong in the world 😂.
I hope him and his dad and friends have a great trip. And if his predictions for the next game are correct, work should begin on a statue before the final whistle blows 😉
Da iawn boi bach.