Barcelona crush 11-year-old's dream of meeting Leo Messi, Stoke City come to the rescue
An 11-year-old disabled Lionel Messi fan was left heartbroken at Barcelona after the club decided to cancel her chance to meet her idol. Stoke-born Hanya Sajad was born with half a heart and has already had a heart-transplant for which she takes extremely painful hormone injections.
Hanya looks up to Barcelona star Messi because the 5-time FIFA Ballon D'Or underwent the same treatment as a child and serves as an inspiration to thousands of such children from all over the world. Her parents arranged a trip to Barcelona so she could meet her idols but the club altered her arrangements and scrapped the meeting altogether.
Hanya's mother Lisa McLane had e-mailed the Catalan club after booking a £1000 trip to Barcelona asking if they could meet Messi and some of the other Barcelona stars. Barcelona were more than kind offering her upgraded seats, a pitchside meet-and-greet and a photograph session with the first team.
But Hanya's trip ultimately ended in distress. After waiting for nearly two hours to meet the first team and take the photographs, Barcelona officials approached the family and said their meeting with the team was cancelled. What's worse is that their upgraded tickets were also scrapped, causing Hanya and her parents to miss the first 20 minutes of the game.
After the whole thing, Hanya's mother, Lisa said, "It broke her heart. She just wanted to go home.
"She got all built up for it and thought her dream was going to come true and it was then taken away from her in an instant.
"She really wanted to see the opening ceremony but didn't get to see any of it.
"She's usually so happy and smiley, but she was putting on a really fake smile.
"It was awful and heartbreaking. I was more upset for her. I tried to make her dream come true but ended up feeling like I had just let her down."
Barcelona Football Club apologised to the family during the Atletico Madrid game.
A spokesperson said: "Regarding this matter we are already working on a solution to try to repair this situation.
"We will contact very soon the family and discuss with them different options."
Stoke City come to the rescue
After returning to the United Kingdom, Hanya's story was picked up by BBC Radio Stoke whose coverage caught the attention of local Premier League club, Stoke City. Stoke have since gone on to invite Hanya to the club to make up for the 11-year-old's nightmare at Barcelona.
The club have reportedly invited Hanya for a VIP tour around their facilities along with a meet-and-greet with the players of the club – including former Barcelona stars in Ibrahim Affelay and Bojan Krki – during their next home game.