The girlfriend of a talented young player who died in a drowning tragedy in Amsterdam joined family and friends as a tribute match was played in his honour.
Sam Hopkins was in the crowd of spectators who had gathered at Dyke House School in Hartlepool, today, to see boyfriend Daniel Sirrell’s team mates take on his relatives in a friendly game of football.
The 20-year-old, from Peterlee, who played for Harton and Westoe FC in South Shields, lost his life after he fell into a river, during a holiday with friends, and could not be saved.
The game had been organised to help raise funds to bring Daniel home after it transpired he was not insured.
The cash has since been raised, however, organiser Dan Hewiston, who worked with Daniel at McDonald’s in Hartlepool, decided to go ahead with the match with money collected going towards his family to help give him the send off he deserves.
Watching the game alongside a crowd of spectators, his girlfriend Sam, from Peterlee, 19, said: “I can’t believe the support - it’s crazy. We never expected so many people to turn out. The support is unreal.
It’s lovely what everyone is doing for him. You can tell how much he was loved by everyoneSam Hopkins
“When we were told what had happened it was such a shock as had only went away for one night. We were all expecting him home. It really was the worst day of my life.
“It’s lovely what everyone is doing for him. You can tell how much he was loved by everyone.”
The game kicked off following a minutes applause in tribute to the left-wing player who had been part of Harton and Westoe FC for the past 18-months.
The game was played in two 45-minute halves with Harton and Westoe taking on Daniel’s friends for the first half, winning 4-0 before playing against a team from McDonalds which they also won 4-1.
Mr Hewitson said: “I knew Daniel from working in McDonald’s and I knew there was a fund to help pay to bring him home.
“When the money was found, we just decided to keep it going. The money will be donated to his family to help pay for other things.
“It’s nice his team mates have travelled from South Shields to take part in the event.
“The match went really well and we raised just over £300 for his family.”
David Crumbie, manager of Harton and Westoe Miners Football Club, said: “We were contacted by Dan, who worked with Daniel to say he was putting on an event and would we like to be involved. We said yes straight away. Daniel had been playing for us for 18-months and had become an integral part of the team. In his first season he won player of the season and was the highest goal scorer. The season just gone he was second highest goal scorer.
“We have plans to retire the number 11 shirt, which was Daniel’s number and have our homeshirts with #11 on the sleeves as a tribute to Daniel.”