A father and son who made the Champions League final in Porto against the odds have credited the kindness of others and their own determination as they witnessed Chelsea secure glory in Porto.
Matt Perry, 23, and his dad David, 57, were ecstatic when they were one of the fortunate 5,800 Chelsea fans to get tickets to the Champions League final battle with Manchester City.
Lifelong Chelsea fans, Matt said once the tickets were secured they were going to do “everything” they could to make the game.
As government guidelines outlined, one of the requirements for fans was that they took a PCR test before arriving in the Portuguese city.
So when Matt and his dad were yet to receive their results from private company, MyHealthcare Clinic, hours before their flight was scheduled to leave Gatwick, they started to worry if their dream had faded altogether.
“We thought it would be easy sailing,” Matt told Oh My Goodness.
David had previously had to travel to Newport days before the flight to get his passport renewed and it was hoped that would be the only challenge the pair would face, but what would follow was beyond anything they could have expected.
By the time both had arrived at Gatwick at 4:00 BST for their flight that was scheduled to leave five hours later, the pair, along with many other Blues fans, were yet to receive their PCR test results.
Matt said it was an “complete mix” of emotions waiting nervously until eventually their flight had left with them unable to board.
After contacting the company, who told them that they had lost their results, Matt and his dad had decided at 11:00 BST that they should go home and forget about making the final.
“We [started] to come to terms with the likelihood that we weren’t going to make the game, [and were] angry and felt completely let down by a Covid test we had paid a lot of money for,” Matt said.
It was at that moment, to the surprise of both of them, that the company had finally sent over a negative test result for David. The pair then made the bold decision that they would do everything they could to catch the last possible flight to Porto from Luton at 14:35 BST despite Matt not having his test results.
As they left to catch a flight they had yet to book tickets for, an unlikely hero stepped up.
A Jet2 employee, who had finished his shift, offered to help them book a flight with another airline over the phone.
The employee, Stuart Bailey, who has been described as a “hero”, took action to make sure they both had flights booked to leave for Porto when they arrived at Luton airport.
Matt said Stuart gave every fan that was still waiting his number in case there was a possibility that results would come through and they had a chance to make it to Luton, and offered to assist in booking flights for them.
“Stuart seemed gutted for all of us that we were missing the match. He had already finished work by the time we were in the car [as] we could hear his dog barking in the background, so [he] completely went out of his way to help us.
“I’m not sure if he was a football fan or not, but either way it was clear that he was more than happy to help us, which is amazing really,” Matt added.
Despite heading to Luton airport and booking another flight to Porto without Matt’s test result, it was a massive relief when Matt’s results came through as negative on the way.
All they had to do now, was get to Luton in time.
That was when another unlikely hero stepped up for Matt and David when Stuart called someone he knew at Luton, Pablo.
Due to traffic and the limited time the pair had to board the flight, Stuart asked Pablo to fast-track them to their flight when they arrived around 45 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave.
“Pablo was waiting at the entrance and managed to cut us to the front for the check-in, as well as zoom us through all the way to the front of the queue for the flight which was halfway through boarding.
“My dad tried to give him some money to thank him but he refused to accept it [as he] was genuinely just happy to help, like Stuart,” Matt said.
One final piece of kindness came when they arrived back in England, when Matt’s uncle drove them in the early hours of the morning to Luton to pick up the car they parked the previous day.
Despite the whirlwind of emotions and chaos that the pair endured, Matt described Chelsea’s victory as “the icing on the cake”, but said that even if they had lost, he would have been proud of the effort they made to get to the final.
The Chelsea season ticket holder says that even though “the odds were completely against” them both “from the outset”, without Stuart and Pablo him and his dad would have had “no chance” of making it out to Porto.
“They went completely out of their way for two desperate football fans,” he added.
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