Newcastle United and Sunderland AFC are bitter English Premier League rivals, but that didn’t stop their fans from showing solidarity in the face of tragedy.
Malaysia Airlines confirmed Friday that two Newcastle superfans were among those killed on flight MH17, which was shot down near the Russia-Ukraine border Thursday. According to BBC, there has been an outpouring of support from both soccer communities. John Alder, believed to be in his 60s, and Liam Sweeney, 28, were both on their way to New Zealand for one of their beloved club’s preseason games.
In response to the news, Sunderland fans set up a GoFundMe page, simply asking for £100 to send a floral tribute to the families. “We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games,” the page reads.
They had no problem raising the money, and then some. As of Saturday evening, the Sunderland fans had collected over £14,000, which is around $24,000. The page says that the extra money will be donated to charity.
In addition, Newcastle announced that the players would wear black armbands in upcoming games as tribute to Alder and Sweeney, and there is a memorial at St. James’ Park, Newcastle’s stadium.
“We all knew how passionately John and Liam supported the team and the club,” Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said. “They were with us just earlier this week for our first preseason friendly against Oldham, and their dedication to travel all the way around the world to support us in New Zealand tells you all you need to know about the passion they had for Newcastle United.”
Photo via Twitter/@RaoulDixonNNP