Lurgan’s Jay Beatty has become a global superstar after being offered a trip of a lifetime to the World Cup in Brazil.
Celtic mad Jay was invited to an all expenses paid trip to Brazil to watch Greece play by idol former Celtic star Georgios Samaras
However, the Beatty family had to turn the generous offer down as they were already on their holidays in the USA.
Jay, who has Down’s syndrome, learned of the generous offer from the Greek Football Federation when he and his family were already at the airport en route to Boston, USA.
News of the Greek offer went global with newspapers TV, radio and internet sites all over the world broadcasting Samaras’ TV tribute to Jay and the Lurgan lad’s video response.
The young Lurgan lad became a huge fan of the Greek striker when he plucked him from the stands as Celtic lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy last month.
And it was Jay who became an internet hit when he was seen on social media sites cheering on Greece at this year’s World Cup.
A Facebook campaign, launched in Greece to send him and his family to Brazil, had 90,000 hits within two days.
Dimitris Athanasopoulos, one of those who set the Facebook campaign rolling in Greece, said he was amazed and humbled at the response he got.
“I’d known about Jay since Samaras carried him around Celtic Park in May after the premiership final,” he told The Irish Times. “But when I saw Jay cheering on Greece, I said to a friend that we should make his dream come true. Here was a foreign kid supporting Greece with such passion and we built on that fame.”
Mr Athanasopoulos said that he was overwhelmed with offers of financial support to get Jay on the plane to the World Cup from local soccer teams in Greece, Cyprus and Australia, which has a large Greek diaspora.
“We nearly managed to send a kid from Ireland who we never met to Brazil. It just goes to show that when you want to achieve something, you can,” he said.
And soon after, at a press conference in Brazil, Samaras paid tribute to Jay and said: “This boy gives me so much strength, it’s incredible. There are no words. I feel his love so much. This love I feel, is also felt by many people in Greece.”
However, the Lurgan bhoy released a video on Facebook on Saturday saying that he couldn’t go to see Greece play against Costa Rica.
He said: “Thanks Sammy I hope you win the World Cup. I am sorry I won’t be there, but I still love you very much and I hope you win. Come on Sammy!”
Jay’s dad Martin said it was a fantastic offer and the family were ‘gutted’ they couldn’t go.
Lurgan people holidaying in Greece said they were astounded when they spotted the local lad on Greek TV and he appeared on stations across Europe, the USA and south America.
The Lurgan lad also did a team talk on Facebook for the Greek team which was shared more than 1,300 times
The Beatty family were invited to Harvard University in Boston by a Greek professor to watch the game. But unfortunately the Mediterranean team lost out.
Martin posted on his Facebook page on Monday: “Unfortunately the result was not the one we wanted but what a university and the kindness that was shown to us was unbelievable,” he said.
“Unfortunately for Harvard they do not have courses on Celtic FC which disappointed Jay and he informed the Harvard lecturers this would mean he would have to go to a different university to study his chosen subject.
“Thank you to everyone at Harvard who treated so well. It was amazing. A special thanks to Constantine Psimopoulos who organised the day.”