Jack Grealish’s friendship with Finlay is quickly becoming one of the best feel-good stories at the World Cup.
The English winger held up his end of a deal with Finlay, an 11-year-old boy who has cerebral palsy, by breaking out into an inspired celebration during Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran. The two met earlier this month after Grealish received a letter from the Manchester City fan. Grealish’s 19-year-old sister Hollie also has cerebral palsy.
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On a Facetime call with Finlay, who was sporting a Manchester City jersey, Grealish said the 11-year-old was always in the back of his mind.
The two then enjoyed a three-minute conversation where they discussed Qatar, the weather back home in England and Finlay’s new celebrity status. As Grealish hung up ahead of a team meeting, Finlay was left starstruck.
Grealish originally intended to whip out the celebration in a club match against Chelsea earlier this month, but when he failed to score he set his sights on something bigger — the World Cup.
The 27-year-old winger made his World Cup debut in the 71st minute when he and teammate Marcus Rashford subbed on for Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka, two players that had combined for three of England’s first four goals. Within seconds, Rashford added a goal of his own to put England up 5-1 midway through the second half.
Grealish said with the game essentially put away, he didn’t expect to score. But as luck would have it, in the closing minute before stoppage time, England found itself with numbers as a trio of substitutes — Callum Wilson, Phil Foden and Grealish — went streaking down the field.
The Iranian goalkeeper stepped up, giving Wilson the perfect window to slot a pass to Grealish who finished the shot.
This was only Grealish’s second international goal for the Three Lions.
While it remains to be seen whether this celebration will have an encore, all eyes will certainly be on Grealish if he does manage to net another goal in this tournament. England will return to the pitch on Friday to take on the U.S. at 2 p.m. ET.