Ten years later, Chris Hegardt meets Lionel Messi again


Since the arrival of Lionel Messi in the U.S., post-match player handshakes have involved plenty of opposing players walking up to the Argentine superstar for a handshake, photo, or even an autograph. But one post-match handshake has stuck out among all the others.

His handshake with Charlotte FC’s Chris Hegardt.

Ten years ago, Hegardt was an 11-year-old battling liver cancer and a part of the Make-a-Wish Foundation — his wish: meeting FC Barçelona legend Lionel Messi.

He got his wish, flying to Barcelona and taking the pitch and playing alongside Messi. Ten years later, he got to meet Messi again.

“It’s really cool, at that time of my life I couldn’t imagine that in 11 years I’d be playing against him, so I think it’s just a credit to like what I’ve done my life and the resilience I showed, but also him now playing in the MLS,” Hegardt told San Diego TV station FOX5 prior to the match.

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In that same interview, he added: “You never know who you are going to meet and how you are going to meet them again, so it’s kind of cool,”

It’s not the first time Hegardt has had an inspiring story about re-meeting a professional soccer player. While he was sick, he was visited in the hospital by then-U.S. National Team player Sacha Kljestan.


Last season, he got to swap jerseys with Kljestan as a fellow professional player following Charlotte FC’s match against LA Galaxy. It was also Hegardt’s professional debut.

"I'll remember that moment forever because I'll look at my wall in 35 years and say, 'I remember when I swapped jerseys with Sacha Kljestan,'" Hegardt said in an interview with ESPN.