A six-year-old football fan, who plays up to six times a week, used a meeting with her football hero to declare her intentions to one day win a medal for England.
Birmingham’s Harper Mills traveled to Wembley Stadium with his mother on Sunday to watch England beat Germany 2-1 in the Euro 2022 final.
On Wednesday, the young footballer met one of her heroes, Aston Villa goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, who was on the substitutes’ bench for the dramatic final, and even managed to show off her winners’ medal WSL goalkeeper.
Her mother Lou Mills told the PA news agency: “We’ve never forced Harper to play soccer, she loves it.
“Hannah recognized (Harper) because he’s always at Villa games and asked him how he was doing.
“Harper said, ‘I really want one of those medals,’ and Hannah said, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’
“It was amazing.”
Harper supports Aston Villa Women and travels to all their matches with her parents, who are also big football fans.
She has been season ticketed for the last two years for Aston Villa’s men’s matches and the women’s team, which she “adores”.
Mrs Mills said: “All the other children will ask to put on Nickelodeon but Harper only wants to watch Sky Sports News.
“We follow the Aston Villa ladies around the country and if there’s a game we can’t make she’ll say, ‘Please, mum, please, I’ll do anything.’
“His dream at the moment is to play for Aston Villa, that’s all he talks about and he absolutely adores the women at Aston Villa.
“At the moment that’s what she’s aiming for, but she can’t until she’s eight – then hopefully she’ll be signed.”
Another of Harper’s other footballing inspirations is Maz Pacheco, who plays as a defender for FA WSL club Aston Villa and trains Harper every week.
Harper trains about six days a week and plays on a girls’ team on Saturdays, while on Sundays she plays on a mixed team as the only girl.
Connor Mooney, 27, who coaches Harper as part of the TNG football program, which stands for ‘the next generation’, said the young player is an inspiration.
Mooney told PA: “Harper always comes to training with a big smile on his face.
“For the last year since working with her, she’s been absolutely amazing, she honestly loves the sport so much.”
Despite her daughter’s love of soccer, Ms. Mills admitted that not everyone Harper knows has been supportive of her dreams.
She said: “He’s had it before when we’ve gone to the park or something and people have made comments to Harper like, ‘You can’t play football, you’re a girl.’
“Literally half the clothes in her wardrobe are football gear and if I took a suit off, she would refuse to wear it.
“When Harper goes to school, she plays soccer, but none of her friends will play with her, she has to play with the boys.
“She plays on a mixed team on a Sunday, but she’s actually the only girl on it.”
However, both Ms Mills and Mr Mooney are hopeful that Euro 2022 will be a turning point and are encouraging other girls to get involved in football.
“I think a lot of girls who used to play soccer have stayed in the game because of it and I honestly think it’s going in the right direction,” Mooney added.