Boy who met Messi on holiday earns 3,000 Instagram followers after encounter
Mackenzie, 11, said he didn’t expect anything to come of his meeting with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The 11-year-old goalkeeper who met Lionel Messi while on holiday in Antigua has found fame on Instagram after the encounter.
Mackenzie O’Neill, from Kent, met the Barcelona legend while on holiday with his mother Anna, who filmed her son kicking a ball around with Messi and his son Thiago.
Since the video went viral on social media, the aspiring goalkeeper has seen his Instagram following rocket from 85 to more than 3,500 – but the fame has been something of a mixed blessing.
“I thought that a picture and a 15-second video would come to nothing,” Mackenzie told PA. “I used to have 85 followers and now I’ve got more than 3,500.
“It’s quite amazing but also a bit like, ‘give me a break!’ sometimes.”
The Instagram posts that have rocketed the Manchester United supporter to fame include a picture with Messi, which has more than 35,000 likes, and the video recorded by his mother which has accrued more than 200,000 views on his page.
Highlights of Mackenzie’s time with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner include an attempted nutmeg, which Messi “tapped away” and a save against La Liga’s all-time top goalscorer, of which Mackenzie said: “I had to dive and I tipped it to the corner of the pitch.”
The Faversham Strike Force goalkeeper enjoyed further time with Messi in Antigua, with the footballer’s wife translating so the pair could converse.
“It’s something he’ll keep in his heart forever, and he deserves it as well,” Ms O’Neill, who was unaware of Messi’s celebrity initially, told PA.
“I heard him kicking a ball about and I just saw him with Messi, a couple of other kids and his young son, and I thought ‘this is incredible,’ so I had to take a video.
“I didn’t realise how massive it would become. I just took it for Mackenzie to treasure for the rest of his life.”