Daniel McCabe took part in the opening ceremony in Moscow last week. PICTURE: Arthur Kinahan
The Republic of Ireland may not have qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year - but there was still some Irish involvement as the world’s biggest football tournament kicked off this week.
That came in the form of 12-year-old Dundalk boy Daniel McCabe, who was part of the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
Daniel was a flag bearer, carrying and waving the Irish tricolour around during a stunning opening ceremony, which was headlined by Let Me Entertain You star Robbie Williams.
Out in Moscow as part of the Football for Friendship championship, Daniel - a Bayern Munich fan who is supporting James Rodriguez and Columbia in the World Cup - represented Ireland as 12-year-olds from 211 nations and regions around the world came together to form 32 teams.
While his team - Magellanic Penguin - played three games, losing twice and winning once, Daniel had to show his versatile side. A centre back usually, he even stepped into goal at one point.
Afterwards, the boys - from Bermuda, Tahiti, Chad, Mozambique and elsewhere - got to enjoy the opening game of the 2018 edition of the World Cup.
“The atmosphere was really good,” Daniel told The Democrat on Monday. “The game (Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia) was really good. The seats were up really close.”
Daniel pictured in the Luzhniki Stadium ahead of last week's opening match of the tournament
Daniel’s mum Anastasia encouraged him to appy for the opportunity through Football For Friendship, and thankfully, he was successful.
Daniel is currently enjoying his very last week as a primary school pupil at Realt na Mara, before he goes off to Coláiste Chú Chulainn.
Anastasia moved to Ireland from Russia herself in 2001 and her trip to Moscow last week was a welcome return home.
“I work for the Irish company Russian Bridge, so I am aware of many programmes in Russia,” she explained. “Daniel was not 100% confident he would be chosen but he was very happy when his application was approved.
“Daniel made many new friends,” Anastasia said. “Not just with the other boys on his team but from Scotland and Northern Ireland also.”
Also a keen basketball player, Daniel was joined at the tournament by Daniel Mihaliov from Carrickmacros. Daniel, whose parents are from Latvia, was reporting on the event for a YouTube channel.