Tuesday 03 October 2017, 15:09

The story behind the gesture that wowed the world

  • FC Copenhagen among three finalists for the FIFA Fan Award

  • The Danish Cup trophy was carried to a wheelchair-bound fan

  • “It was a reminder that it’s not just the noisiest fans who count”

In FC Copenhagen’s Fan Award story, there are two heroes.

One is Jacob, the diehard supporter who follows the team through thick and thin, in all weathers, despite being confined to a wheelchair. The other is Daniel, the man who, amid raucous cup final celebrations, remembered this dedicated fan and ensured that he shared in his team’s moment of glory.

Not that it was clear, initially at least, that such a touching gesture was taking place. “The funny thing is that, if you listen to the Danish TV coverage, the commentators are completely confused,” explained Jes Mortensen, FC Copenhagen’s Head of Media. “The players had given the trophy to the fans and the next thing it looked like this big guy with tattoos was running away with it!”

Mortensen and his FCK colleagues did not share the commentators’ misgivings though. “We knew it was Daniel, our Supporters Liaison Officer, so we were pretty confident he wasn’t stealing the trophy. He’d have had a hard time explaining himself at work on the Monday morning if he had been!”

The fact that the man responsible has an official function at the club raises the question: did FCK organise or authorise the show of inclusion that, within hours, was being watched around the world?

“Not at all,” responded Mortensen. “It was totally spontaneous. Although everyone at the club loved it, all credit goes to Daniel and the fans here because it was all their doing.

“Daniel knew that Jacob is a really dedicated and enthusiastic supporter, but that his disability means that he cannot get close to the players in moments like these. So he remembered Jacob when the trophy went into the fans and took it through the crowd to him. He wanted him to enjoy the moment as much as everyone else.”

To say he achieved that aim would be an understatement. Jacob Ove Larsen had always thought that nothing could top his favourite moment as a Copenhagen fan: the club’s shock 1-0 UEFA Champions League win over Manchester United in 2006. Then again, he never expected to be celebrating a 3-1 Danish Cup final win over FCK’s old rivals Brondby by getting up close and personal with the trophy.

“I started going to watch FCK when I was ten years old and I go to all their home games,” he told FIFA.com. “And right from the start, I was made to feel like one of the family.

“But I didn’t know Daniel all that well, so I was really surprised when he brought me the trophy. It definitely wasn’t something we had spoken about before. When you hear the cheers building, I was actually joining in at that point – but I didn’t know what was going on until the trophy appeared in front of me.

“Even afterwards, I don’t think I really understood exactly what had happened until someone tagged me in a video of the whole thing on Facebook. And once it started going viral, it was amazing – I began getting messages from people all over the world. Then, when I was at the last game of the season, I had fans stopping me saying, ‘Wow, there’s the legend!’ The whole thing has been amazing.”

The fact it has been recognised with a nomination FIFA Fan Award is, Mortensen and Larsen agree, “wonderful”. But more important, the former believes, is the wider message it conveys about what FCK and football in general should stand for.

“It comes back to a mantra we use a lot at this club: everyone is welcome here,” he said. “We don’t care who you vote for, how you look or who you sleep with. As long as you want to support this team and do that in the right way, we’ll try to make you feel part of the family. What happened here was a great example that it’s not just the noisiest fans who count. It’s also a reminder to all of us never to forget that.”

View the three finalists for the FIFA Fan Award and vote for your favourite!