A young Ukrainian refugee forced to flee war in his country had a wish come true when he drove Gillingham to Priestfield yesterday.
Daniel Lysak, who was hosted by a family in Folkestone with his mother Yana, enjoyed a special day during the League One clash with Fleetwood and had the chance to meet the team before the game.
The 11-year-old boy and his mother are now living with Gills fan Malcolm Bell and his family after arriving in the UK earlier this month.
Mr Bell had originally hoped Daniel would be hailed at the game, but once the story of the 11-year-old spread two members of staff at the club were quick to get in touch to arrange the special experience.
“It’s just a new world he’s living in and it’s great to be a part of it so it’s fair,” the 51-year-old host said.
“They knew it was his very first football game, a live football game, so they just wanted to make his day special.”
Daniel was partly ‘set up’ thanks to a new friend and Gillingham fan, Mr Bell’s 10-year-old son Freddie.
Mr Bell said the way the club reacted to Daniel’s welcome has ‘restored my faith in human nature’.
“The fan base has been so supportive of me that it’s made me a proud Gillingham supporter,” he said.
“And how the UK reacted to the Ukrainians – I’m even more proud of that because so few have offered anything other than overwhelming support.
“What’s great is you can see that Yana and Daniel feel they’ve been accepted everywhere we go.”
Gillingham had to settle for a point from their relegation battle against Fleetwood after the game – played in front of an exceptional Bank Holiday crowd – ended scoreless.
The club attracted the best crowd of the season after cutting ticket prices and there are plans to do more next season.