Recently, football has made the headlines here in the UK for all of the wrong reasons. The unchecked greed of the Premier League clubs while the grassroots game falls apart and the absolutely appalling behaviour of a few Chelsea ‘fans’ on the Paris Metro has led to a bunch of negative stories about British football all week.
So, it’s nice to be able to bring you a positive one.
Today, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL), which is the organisation which runs all four senior leagues in Scotland, announced their goal of the month for January. The goal of the month is decided by fans voting for the goals the SPFL put on their shortlist.
Sometimes the vote can be close, but that definitely wasn’t the case for January’s vote, which saw the winner amass a massive 97% of the vote.
That winner was 11-year-old Celtic fan Jay Beatty.
Jay, who comes from Lurgan in Northern Ireland (both Celtic and Rangers have a huge following in Northern Ireland) and has Down’s syndrome, first met his Celtic heroes when they played against Northern Irish side Cliftonville a few years ago.
Jay came to national attention last May when Celtic won the Scottish Premier League. Then-Celtic manager Neil Lennon remembered Jay from their previous meeting and gave him his league winner’s medal and Jay’s favourite player, Greek international Georgios Samaras, picked him out of the crowd and carried him around the pitch. The video of this racked up over 2 million views on YouTube.
Samaras said at the time “I first met Jay in Ireland. He is a very special little boy, a massive Celtic fan and a huge inspiration. The whole team were very proud to have him with us today.”
Footage of Jay with Samaras made such an impression on the people of Greece that the Greek FA offered Jay and his family the chance to go the Greece v Costa Rica match at the World Cup as their guests. Unfortunately, the Greek offer was made as the Beatty family was boarding a flight for a family holiday so they couldn’t take them up on it.
Last December, Jay was invited to the Greek Sports Personality of the Year awards in Athens where he got to present Samaras, who left Celtic last summer and now plays in Saudi Arabia, with an award.
Jay’s Christmas wish was to one day get to score a goal for Celtic and then celebrate like his hero Samaras.
Luckily, Santa has friends at Scottish Premier League side Hamilton Academical, who are a club with a reputation for being extremely community-minded. Hamilton’s directors invited Jay to be their guest of honour when they played Celtic on January 17th.
Jay’s day started brilliantly as he was allowed into the both teams’ dressing rooms, a privilege usually reserved for players and coaches only and even delivered a pre-match team talk to Celtic.
Celtic won the game 0-2, but the game will be remembered for half-time when, cheered on by both sets of fans in attendance, Jay got to fulfill his dream when he scored a goal in front of the Celtic fans.
Jay’s dad Martin said at the time “I would like to thank Hamilton FC for making Jay’s Christmas present the best present ever, they could not have been any kinder and I will never be able to thank them enough.
“Today was something else and to have a whole stadium including the Hamilton fans chanting your son’s name will live with me forever.”
And in a Facebook post, Martin added: “When Jay was born, we hoped and prayed that people would treat him with respect.
“Because of his love of the greatest club in the world, his life has become a dream come true. We thought 2014 was just amazing but today was something else.”
In fact, Jay’s day got even better when Hamilton told him that as far as they were concerned, his goal had counted and they had been beaten 0-3, with Jay Beatty on the scoresheet.
A few weeks later, it emerged that Jay’s goal had been shortlisted for goal of the month. Martin Beatty said:
"I got a link earlier this week from a friend on Facebook to a clip of the SPFL goal of the month contenders for January, at the end of the clip Jay's goal popped up."
"I thought my friend had made it up or altered it, but I then checked and it was on the official SPFL website.
"This type of thing doesn't happen to children with Down's syndrome, they don't get in the limelight, he is being seen as wee Jay and not a boy with Down's syndrome. It is great for raising awareness."
Last week, Jay was invited to a gala dinner at Barcelona, where Barca president Josip Maria Bartomeu publicly invited him to be his guest at the Nou Camp the following night. Jay declined however, as he wanted to go home so he could watch Celtic play Partick Thistle on TV!
Today, Jay’s goal of the month award was announced by Giorgios Samaras who said “Jay my friend, me and you are the same, scoring goals. I’m very happy to announce that you won the goal of the month. Well done pal, great job. I miss you and I love you. See you, Jay.”
After hearing the news Martin Beatty said: “Not many of us get to live our dreams and Jay is getting to live all our dreams.
"Thank you to everyone for making this possible - we are so grateful and proud.”