South Scotland

Fan's dying wish leads to Stranraer versus FC Twente game

Big Partnership Image copyright Big Partnership
Image caption Stranraer fan Jim McKie helped FC Twente supporter Dennis van Unen realise his dying wish

Scottish League One outfit Stranraer have played host to Dutch top division side FC Twente thanks to links which started with a fan's dying wish.

The match, which finished 5-0 to the visitors at Stair Park, was attended by hundreds of visiting fans.

The clubs' links were formed when Stranraer and Rangers fan Jim McKie helped out terminally-ill FC Twente supporter Dennis van Unen.

His dying wish was to see an Old Firm game, which they managed to arrange.

Mr McKie and his friend James Hilton, 61, a Stranraer and Celtic fan, got hold of tickets for Mr van Unen and when he arrived in Glasgow for the game they took him on tours of Ibrox, Parkhead and Hampden.

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Image caption Mr van Unen (left) visited Ibrox, Parkhead and Hampden as well as attending an Old Firm game

The fixture this weekend marks a decade since Mr van Unen's death from skin cancer aged 34.

Links between the two clubs, some 520 miles apart, have remained strong since with Saturday's game the latest example.

Mr McKie admitted he was surprised the Dutch side agreed to take part.

He said: "To be honest, when I asked them if they would come I was almost sure they would say: 'No, we can't come.'"

"They said: 'Yes, we are coming and we are bringing the full squad - 27 players, all the coaches, everything.'"

"Plus we don't know how many fans - it could be anything between 200 and 600 - we don't know."

He said he and Mr Hilton had never imagined what helping Mr van Unen could have led to.

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Image caption Links between the clubs have stayed strong since Mr van Unen's death

"It is huge, it is amazing just how it has come by one simple act," he said.

"James and me feel very humble about the whole thing - it is difficult at times to talk about."

However, he said that the surroundings of Stranraer's ground had come as something of a surprise to their more illustrious opponents.

"When they sent one of their team managers across to look at the facilities I could see the shock on her face," said Mr McKie.

"Stair Park is old school - but these guys like old school.

"They like the fact that it has not been modernised, it is not a 3G pitch - everything has been left as it is."

Business benefit

Stranraer chairman Iain Dougan said it was "incredible" to finally have the two teams meet on the pitch.

"The boys are really looking forward to it and even though it's a friendly, they're probably one of the biggest opponents we've come up against," he said.

"We're expecting the stadium to be packed with supporters from both sides, and businesses in the town will benefit as a result."

A memorial tournament is played every year at FC Twente in honour of Mr van Unen and another fan Boris Dijkhuizen, which Stranraer youth teams regularly participate in.

Jan van Halst, technical director at the Dutch side, said: "It's fantastic that the Scottish FC Twente supporters have helped to arrange this fixture.

"What started with a last wish from supporter Dennis van Unen has now become a close friendship between FC Twente and Stranraer."

He said they were looking forward to a "very special friendly match" in Scotland.

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