'Dream come true' for fan with heart condition as he meets football heroes

Richard Sanders with his signed Crystal Palace shirt at Portman Road

Richard Sanders with his signed Crystal Palace shirt at Portman Road - Credit: Ipswich Town

A Crystal Palace fan with a life-limiting condition met his footballing heroes as he was a special guest at Portman Road for the Eagles' clash with Ipswich Town.

Richard Sanders, from Woodbridge, lives with pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with a complete atrioventricular heart defect and is supported by Suffolk young adults' charity Zest.

As the 42-year-old was unable to attend Zest activities to receive support and see his friends during the height of the Covid pandemic, his family contacted Ipswich Town to see if he could watch the friendly with Palace on July 24.

The 42-year-old met matchwinner Wilfried Zaha at Ipswich's home

The 42-year-old met matchwinner Wilfried Zaha at Ipswich's home - Credit: Supplied by family

Richard not only attended the game, but received a shirt signed by the Eagles' squad and grabbed a picture with star man Wilfried Zaha and new manager Patrick Vieira.

He left Portman Road with a smile on his face as Zaha's second-half penalty secured a 1-0 victory for Palace.

Richard’s sister Helen said: "It was an amazing day. After coming out of lockdown, which had meant Richard had to shield for long periods of time, we saw ‘old Richard’ reignited and come to life, it was very special and he was just buzzing.

New Crystal Palace manager and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira posed for a pictures with Richard

New Crystal Palace manager and Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira posed for a picture with Richard - Credit: Supplied by family


You may also want to watch:


"It was a real dream come true for him and we are so thankful to Ipswich Town Football Club and Crystal Palace for making it such a brilliant day.

"Also a big ‘thank you’ must go to the Zest team who provide Richard and our family with a safe space, somewhere we know he can receive the support he needs and also enjoy himself.

Most Read

"Richard has a real zest for life and Zest enables him to achieve his ambitions."

Richard, from Woodbridge, is a huge Crystal Palace supporter

Richard, from Woodbridge, is a huge Crystal Palace supporter - Credit: Supplied by family

Dan Palfrey, public relations manager at Ipswich Town, added: "We're delighted that Richard and his carers were able to attend our friendly against Crystal Palace.

"With the club's long-standing relationship with the hospice, we've met Richard a number of times, and he always mentions his beloved Crystal Palace.

"He is always such a character on any club visits to the hospice, and we're delighted that they had a great experience."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter