Dublin boys given pride of place by APOEL
Mohan brothers led teams out for club’s Europa League game against Frankfurt
James (11) and Thomas (10) Mohan from Cabra as guests of honour at last night’s game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Photograph: Savvides Press Sports Photographers Ltd
Some five weeks after a stroke of good fortune put them back in the competition, APOEL provided a perfect punch line to the best football yarn I’ve ever been directly involved with by having two young brothers from Cabra in Dublin over to lead the teams out for last night’s Europa League game against Eintracht Frankfurt.
James (11) and Thomas (10) Mohan have, in fact, been guests of the Cypriot champions all this week with the club delivering in spades on its promise to give the two youngsters, and their mother Brenda, a holiday they’d remember.
The whole thing arose out of the club’s desire to express its gratitude for having been drawn at the end of August to replace Fenerbahce, who had been expelled over a match fixing charge, in the group stages of the competition.
No vested interest
I’d been in Monaco for another Uefa event and, as a journalist from a country with no vested interest in the outcome, was asked to pick a plastic ball out of jar containing 30 or so of them at a press conference. When it turned out to be the one containing APOEL’s name, club official Phivos Papadopoulos was in touch within hours inviting my family over for one of the group games.
That didn’t feel quite right – it wasn’t as if Uefa had presented me with a list of names and asked me to take my pick – but the club were really up for something and when I suggested instead that one act of complete randomness might most appropriately be repaid with another, they bit straight away.
The intention, then, was to find somebody from Ireland who none of us knew but who might benefit from, and really appreciate, a trip to a big European football match.
I emailed a handful of organisations looking for likely candidates and Heart Children Ireland, which I knew of since June when Damien Duff, whose son Woody was born with a congenital heart defect, did an event for them, got straight back to me.
They suggested James, who loves football but can’t play much because of his a condition that may eventually require a transplant. James, his brother and his Mum headed off to Cyprus last Sunday.
They attended training this week and the pre-match press conference when manager Paolo Sergio and his players made them extremely welcome and last night they were guests of honour at the game.
“They’ve been living a dream,” says Brenda. “I don’t think it could get any better than this for them. The club have been wonderful, they’ve bent over backwards for us and the boys have had a really great time.”