KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In baseball, you catch foul balls. In soccer, players take their jersey off and give it to you at the end of the game.
Well, that doesn’t happen all the time, but a nine-year-old girl from Council Bluffs, Iowa went home Saturday night with Sporting KC player Johnny Russell’s jersey after the team beat the Portland Timbers 3-0.
The girl had been holding up a sign for the entire game letting Russell know it was her 9th birthday.
"All I really wanted was to give him a high five and just have him say 'Happy Birthday' to me. But he gave me the jersey and like three hugs," Irelynn White told 41 Action News over the phone. "I just want to say thank you."
Video of Russell taking off the jersey and giving it to the girl in the stands quickly spread online, reaching 1.3 million views within 48 hours.
"It's amazing that it spread like that," said Irelynn's mother, Andrea White. "We want positive things spread over all the negativity."
For 90 minutes, she held a sign that read: "Johnny Russell, it's my 9th birthday!"
Then, this. 😭 pic.twitter.com/GRJB5nGQMX
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) August 19, 2018
Andrea White says she's glad someone got it on video. When Russell began approaching them on Saturday night, she thought she hit record on her phone, but it didn't work.
Later that night a friend texted the family and said Sporting posted it on social media. "After that our phones just blew up and it hasn't stopped since," Andrea White said.
Irelynn did not just pick Russell at random. Her fandom began while watching a Sporting KC game on TV with her dad.
"He had my number on his back and he's blonde just like me," she said. "Then I started watching his footwork and I went out into the yard and started to do footwork like him. Every time I go to soccer, my goal is to be just like him when I grow up."
Irelynn plans to write Russell a letter to thank him.