At this past Sunday's edition of the press conference held every morning during the tournament, we were in for a special treat. We were joined by three young stars: Cindy, Vitor and Iago, who told those present about their FIFA World Cup experiences™ through the FIFA Youth Programme and even ventured their predictions for which two teams will reach the Final.
The programme, which is made possible thanks to the support of FIFA's commercial partners, is giving more than 3,000 children and young adults the chance to get involved in matches in one of five roles. These range from ball crew members to National Flag bearers, player escorts, FIFA Flag bearers and FIFA Fair Play Flag bearers.
Cindy Valim de Souza was part of the ball crew for the match between Argentina and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was so overcome with emotion at finding herself in such close quarters to Lionel Messi and Angel di Maria – two of her biggest idols, who have helped inspire her to pursue her dream of becoming a professional footballer – that she was on the verge of tears. She was bitten by the football bug at a very young age, but it was only as an 8-year-old that she was able to convince her parents just how serious she was about the beautiful game. Still just 15, she now plays for Brazilian club Vasco da Gama's women's team.
Meanwhile, little Vitor Hugo Salgado Sa, 7, was a player escort for Match 19 and took to the pitch ahead of the remarkable events of the game in hand with Gary Medel, although he admitted that he was actually supporting Spain. Vitor told us about how excited he was on the day, which he and his entire family had been eagerly looking forward to. Despite his sweet, youthful voice, he issued his verdict on the tournament in an authoritative tone: Brazil will face Costa Rica in the Final, and of course he will be watching.
Iago Fabricio Dias, 16, is still waiting for his big day in the programme. Match 50 cannot come soon enough for the teenager, who will be stepping on to the hallowed turf at the Maracana as an official FIFA Flag bearer. Though it is not yet known which teams the game on 28 June will feature, Iago is thrilled by the prospect of getting to hear the roar of the crowd and experience the atmosphere at the packed stadium. He could not be prouder that his country is hosting the World Cup and cannot imagine a better football venue than the historic Maracana. He expects Brazil and Argentina to clash in the Final on 13 July.
So from now until the big showpiece, as we continue to enjoy the goal fest being served up by the players, we should not forget about the 3,389 youngsters who are also taking part in the action. They each have a unique story to tell and, for each and every one of them, taking to the pitch during a FIFA World Cup is sure to be an unforgettable experience.