Football Features

The most memorable ball-boy moments in modern football history

By Ben Green

Published: 15:30, 24 November 2020 | Updated: 12:51, 27 November 2020

We all dreamed of being a ball boy during our childhood years. 

The chance to have a front-row seat at your favourite stadium, watching your favourite players, and being able to touch the mythical matchday ball. Yes, please!

For most, the fantasy remained just that. But for some, this pitchside pipe dream became more than just a passing thought.

Indeed, we often forget about the ball boy; for the most part, he’s inconspicuous, passing game by game without a second glance — but he’s always there.

But in recent years the ball boy has emerged from his slumber and started to take on a more prominent role. They are the unsung heroes of modern football. The ones who keep the game flowing. Some have even etched their names into club folklore and earned cult hero status.

But who are they? Well, here are 10 memorable ball boy moments we will never forget.

1. Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 Olympiacos (26/11/19)

With Spurs 2-1 down in the Champions League, this quick-thinking ball boy wasted no time in getting the game back underway. Before anyone could blink, Serge Aurier found the ball in his hands; he then immediately released Lucas Moura, who crossed for Harry Kane’s equaliser.

It was a breathtaking five-second period which yielded a much-needed equalising goal, and Mourinho could not contain his delight, running straight over to the young ball boy to thank him for his efforts. He also provided this glowing post-match appraisal of the youngster.

“I love intelligent ball boys like I was. I was a brilliant ball boy as a kid,” Mourinho told BT Sport. “And this kid today was brilliant. He reads the game, understands the game and made an important assist.

“He’s not there just to look to the stands, lights or scarves. He’s living the game and playing it very well.”

2. Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona (07/05/19)

There is nothing quite like a raucous Anfield atmosphere on a Champions League night. When European powerhouse Barcelona travelled to Merseyside for a semi-final meeting with Liverpool two seasons ago, they were 3-0 up on aggregate and found themselves taking on a Jurgen Klopp side without Mohamed Salah or Roberto Firmino.

However, what they did not prepare for was the high-octane spirit of Liverpool, and not just from the XI on the pitch. No, the moment of the match came when ball boy and academy player Oakley Cannonier acted swiftly to place the ball on the corner spot for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s famous quick-corner manoeuvre.

3. Swansea 0-0 (2-0) Chelsea (23/01/13)  

Swansea City had just booked their ticket in a first-ever major cup final, but this game six years ago will always be remembered for the moment Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a ball boy.

As Rafa Benitez’s side faced a 2-0 deficit, the ball rolled out of play for a Swansea goal-kick in the 79th minute. Hazard chased down the ball, which had been intercepted by a ball boy. What ensued was a brief scuffle between the pair, culminating in the Chelsea man’s eventual toe-poke to the ribs.

4. Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace (23/09/17)

Having been a ball boy himself during his teenage years at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola knows exactly how important the job is. During his second season in the Etihad dugout, City were playing Crystal Palace on home turf, but as the half-time whistle approached, the Catalonian became restless, frustrated by the lack of intensity on the pitch. And off it.

In an effort to bring some much-needed energy, Guardiola rushed over to a ball boy and appeared to him give some in-depth tactical instructions.

“If you analyse 30 minutes in the first half, we were not ready to be there,” he explained. “Maybe over 90 minutes you cannot be there all the time. But it was slow.

“So the ball boys were slow, everybody was slow. And we have to create in the game, to provoke the game. And we didn’t for most of the time in the first half.”

As it turns out, City eventually ran amok in the second half, winning 5-0 on the day. Talk about a Pep talk.

5. Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City (10/12/17)

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Pep Guardiola vs Jose Mourinho, Kyle Walker vs ball boy — three of football’s biggest adversaries.

6. Yeovil Town 3-1 Bromley (28/09/19)

With Yeovil Town 3-1 up against Bromley in a National League match at Huish Park, the referee took matters into his own hands after believing the club’s ball boys were taking too long to restart play. He decided to send one off. And when that didn’t satisfy his desire to see justice served upon the alleged time-wasters, he “dismissed all of them.”

Look up the word ‘backfire’ in a dictionary and you’ll find the following tweet.

7. Portugal 2-0 Wales (06/07/16)

From non-league football to Euro 2016. Portugal faced off against Wales in the semi-final at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais, winning 2-0 to progress to the final, with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani. But, it was before the game when one cheeky ball boy decided to go full Ashley Cole-Roma squad photo and jump in alongside Ronaldo for the nation’s pre-match picture.

8. Everton 2-5 Arsenal (22/10/17)

So, onto one lad who now owes us all a dig! He momentarily took the spotlight off Alexis Sanchez, but the Chilean had the last laugh as he netted the fifth in a 5-2 rout for the Gunners.

9. Aston Villa 3-3 QPR (07/04/15)

Just before this Aston Villa ball boy decided to nutmeg a 35-year-old Robert Green, he slipped over in dramatic fashion, much to the amusement of the Villa Park stadium.

Whether he was then trying to deflect his own embarrassment onto Green or still harboured grievances about the ‘keeper letting slip Clint Dempsey’s shot in the 2010 World Cup, we’ll never know.

10. Bournemouth 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur (11/03/18)

This classic incident between ball boy and Jan Vertonghen saw the young Bournemouth lad receive a stern warning from one of his senior officials. The Cherries went a goal up through Junior Stanislas in the seventh minute, but that was surely too early to start time-wasting? Spurs went on to win 4-1.