An American Leeds fan has come all the way from Detroit to watch his youth team play after the two Premier League games he had planned to watch were postponed.
Chris Garcia, 26, booked his trip from Michigan to the UK – over 3,500 miles – in November with the intention of attending Leeds’ home game against Chelsea and their trip to Crystal Palace as he was staying with his friend and fellow fan Daniel Deacon in London.
But Chelsea’s game, originally scheduled for last weekend, was postponed due to the west London club’s appearance in the FA Cup semi-finals and Saturday’s game at Selhurst Park was postponed to Monday evening for reasons of television programs.
It left Mr Garcia and his friend Akshaay Ramanujam flying from Chicago, with the prospect of flying thousands of miles and not seeing their beloved Leeds play.
But instead of canceling the trip, they instead decided to go and watch Leeds Under-23 side take on their counterparts Manchester City in Premier League 2.
And after a tweet about his trip went viral, he and his friends were even granted club VIP status as he was invited to watch the game from the directors’ box and had the chance to meet the Leeds manager – and fellow American – Jesse Marsch. .
“It was extraordinary that they even offered to put us up like this,” Mr Garcia told the PA news agency.
“Yeah, I’ve had a long trip here but I didn’t expect anything like this, nothing at all.
“And it was a dream come true for me, for all the sports I really support – just to be invited into an atmosphere like that was totally surreal.”
The trio met Leeds first-team goalkeeper Ilan Meslier and former striker Jermaine Beckford, who recognized Mr Garcia from his viral tweet and introduced himself.
And he was able to chat about American football with Marsch, who asked Mr Garcia about a recent upset cup win for his home team Detroit City.
“I told him ‘you have my support from the United States and I support you as an American,'” Mr Garcia said.
“Just having this experience of meeting a few personalities from Leeds was beyond anything I expected.
“The way they treated me, the way the club treated us yesterday was like a dream come true and it’s not something I will forget.”
Leeds lost the game 3-1 as the visitors sealed the league title.
But to make the night sweeter, Mr Garcia was involved in a record as the crowd of 21,321 was the biggest ever attendance for an Under-23 game, breaking the previous record of 17,525 for a game between Liverpool and Everton in 2017.
“It was really cool,” he said.
“It’s really cool to be part of breaking the record.”