A Crystal Palace fan with a life-threatening illness met his football heroes as a special guest at Portman Road for the Eagles’ clash with Ipswich Town.
Richard Sanders, of Woodbridge, lives with pulmonary arterial hypertension associated with a complete atrioventricular heart defect and is supported by the Suffolk Zest Young Adult Charity.
As the 42-year-old was unable to attend Zest’s 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 match with Palace on July 24.
Richard not only attended the game but also received a signed jersey from the Eagles team and took a photo 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 at Palace.
Richard’s sister, Helen, said: “It was an amazing day. After coming out of lockdown, which meant Richard had to protect himself for long periods of time, we saw ‘old Richard’ revive and come to life, c was very special and it was just buzzing.
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“It was a real dream come true for him and we are very grateful to Ipswich Town Football Club and Crystal Palace for making this day so brilliant.
“A big ‘thank you’ must also go to the team at Zest who provide Richard and our family with a safe space, a place where we know he can receive the support he needs and also have fun.
“Richard has a real zest for life and Zest allows him to achieve his ambitions.”
Dan Palfrey, Public Relations Manager at Ipswich Town, added: “We are 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 on several occasions, and he always mentions his beloved Crystal Palace.
“He is always such a character on all club visits to the hospice, and we are delighted they had a great experience.”