A Hartlepool man is set for a dream football trip to Madrid after his family story touched the hearts of some of the sport’s power brokers.
Ray Trench, from Greatham, uncovered the Christmas 1966 wishlist of his brother Paul last year. Paul died aged nine after a viral infection of the blood in February 1967.
One of Paul’s wishes was a Subbuteo set, and after the story reached the creators of the game, they made a personalised edition dedicated to the memory of the boy.
Now, a representative of European football administrative body UEFA has read about the story, and offered Ray a complimentary ticket to Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final between Real Madrid and Wolfsburg.
The match will be played at the historic Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, which holds more than 85,000 fans.
Flights and accommodation are being provided by the company behind Subbuteo, Eleven Force, and Ray is ready for a trip he will never forget.
It’s so kind of them. I’m absolutely overwhelmedRay Trench
He said: “I’m absolutely staggered by it. It came completely out of the blue.
“I received a letter from Jose Guerrero, the brand manager of Eleven Force, which said that a UEFA representative had read about the story of my little brother wanting a Subbuteo set.
“They offered me a complimentary ticket to the game, and it has gone from there.
“It’s so kind of them. I’m absolutely overwhelmed.
“It just shows that even in big corporations like UEFA, which sometimes gets a bad press, there are people with hearts.”
Ray, 65, will fly out to Madrid on Tuesday morning, and will stay until Wednesday.
The Champions League quarter-final second leg will see 10-time European champions Real Madrid try to launch a comeback, having lost the first leg 2-0 in Germany this week.
Ray added: “Madrid were beaten 2-0 in the first leg, so I’m sure that some of the worldwide-known players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale will be really going for it.
“It should be a really good game, and it will be great to see some football at one of the world’s greatest stadiums.
“I’ll be meeting up with the people from Subbuteo while I’m over there as well and will visit their base in Madrid.
“I’m really looking forward to the trip and can’t thank everyone who has helped to make it happen enough.”