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Julian's big surprise | World Down Syndrome Day

December 20, 2015 was a special evening for Granit Xhaka.

Named as Borussia Monchengladbach captain for the first time, the Swiss midfielder stood in the tunnel waiting to lead his side out against Darmstadt. 

Standing next to him was Julian, who had won a competition to enter the pitch with the team. A young boy with Down syndrome, Julian was - as he still is today - football mad. 

Along with his mother, Theresa, Julian would regularly attend Gladbach’s open training sessions, waiting for the players before they went out and clapping them on their way back in. Granit knew of Julian, but it was on the night of the Darmstadt game, the night that Julian took his hand as they stepped out onto the pitch, that their story really began. 

“I have a special connection with Julian,” Granit remembers. “In my first match as captain at Borussia Monchengladbach, he came onto the pitch with me and I instantly felt this really nice bond with him.”

Three years later, that bond is still strong - and here’s what happened when Granit invited his young friend over to London for a behind-the-scenes weekend at London Colney and our recent home match against Southampton.

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