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Christopher Atherton: Meet the Youngest First Team Footballer in UK History

The 13-year-old Glenavon FC Academy kid just made UK soccer history after appearing as a substitute for the club’s senior team.

Christopher Atherton is not like most teenagers.

This week, 13-year-old made history as the youngest senior-team footballer the United Kingdom has ever seen, breaking a 42-year-old record in the process. The wunderkind came on as a sub for Northern Irish club Glenavon FC in the second half of their 6-0 League Cup victory against Dollingstown on Tuesday.

He made an early impact, too. Atherton’s first touch resulted in an assist for Matthew Snoody, who scored the side’s final goal in the match.

Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton has had his eye on Atherton for a while now — eight years, to be exact. Hamilton’s son, Callum, played on the same team as the history-making lad.

“The work he does in his own time and the dedication he has in becoming a professional footballer is unbelievable.,” Hamilton said in his post-match remarks. “That’s what separates him from other kids. He works night and day at his game, he eats the right food and he goes to bed at the right time. He is doing everything he can to become a better footballer.”

Hamilton implied the prodigy has already drawn considerable interest from clubs across the UK, too.

“He is just such a special talent,” he added. “There is a lot of interest in him from cross-channel clubs, and I am not one bit surprised.”

Don’t expect to see Christopher Atherton making a habit out of appearing in senior-level matches, though.”He’s only a third year at school,” Hamilton joked. Nevertheless, it’s already a singular feat for the young footballer and an indication that some of the world’s most skilled payers aren’t necessarily at the biggest clubs or in the biggest leagues right this second.

The previous record-holder for youngest senior-team footballer in the UK was Eamon Collins, who was 14 years and 323 days old when he stepped onto the pitch for Blackpool in 1980. Atherton beats him by almost an entire trip around the sun; he was 13 years and 329 days old when he stepped onto the pitch against Dollingstown.

Atherton isn’t the youngest to debut for a senior club in the world, sadly. Per World Soccer Talk, that honor goes to Togo’s Souleymane Mamam. Now 37, the retired attacking midfielder was 13 years and 319 days old when he played against Zambia in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

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