Southampton took a point in their first home Premier League match since the return of fans against Manchester United on Sunday – and two young Saints supporters will have enjoyed the day more than most.
Florence and Joshua, who are both visually impaired, were named as the official mascots for the day at St. Mary’s, and invited to attend the game to watch their team play in a way that they’ve never experienced.
Each were given life-changing wearable technology, known as IrisVision glasses, by Virgin Media, to wear throughout the match in order to see more clearly. Florence suffers from tunnel vision and a loss of peripheral vision, resulting in a constricted circular field of sight – and the technology helped both to see the team they support more clearly than they ever have before.
Both were initially given the IrisVision glasses back in March 2020, but were unable to get to a live match at St. Mary’s until now because of the pandemic and its impact on football.
They were given the opportunity to meet three of Saints‘ top first team players though, seeing the ground alongside James Ward-Prowse, Oriol Romeu and Jack Stephens, and they were even given the chance to have a kick-about on the hallowed turf.
But this time round, Florence and Joshua sat in the crowd near Ralph Hasenhuttl’s dugout, and were even introduced to a great reception at the half-time break from the home support. They even got to see the first Saints goal in front of a full house since the return of fans, as Che Adams’ first-half strike deflected off Fred and past David de Gea to put the hosts ahead.
Florence, who also plays in the Saints Foundation Para Football Academy, said of the experience: “It was incredible to be back at St Mary’s again with full crowds, and to be wearing my IrisVision glasses means I’m able to see the whole pitch in a way I’ve never been able to before.
“It was so exciting to be so close to the action, and I couldn’t believe I got to be mascot at the first game back at St Mary’s – it was so exciting!”
Virgin Media is raising awareness of the technology available, with over 5.1m visually impaired people in the United Kingdom – 43% of whom are football fans.