German football fans in incredible gesture for Doncaster teenager struck by tumour

Forget the Euro 96 semi-final. And who cares about the 4-1 thrashing in World Cup 2010?

Friday, 20th December 2019, 12:24 pm

Their national team may have broken English hearts over the years, but German football fans have won new friends in Doncaster with a caring gesture to a poorly youngster when it really mattered.

The gesture came after teenager Owen Williams, from Dunscroft, fell ill with a brain tumour. Owen had suffered from epilepsy as a young boy, but it got better.

Two years ago, it worsened again, affecting his behaviour, leading to tests diagnosing a tumour. An operation to remove the lump revealed it was not cancerous, and the surgery was a success after he was admitted to hospital.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Owen Williams, pictured with his dad Ian. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-10-12-19-Williams 1-NMSY

Although dad Ian said it was a terrible time for the family, Owen is now doing well.

Ian, aged 49, used to watch the German football team Schalke play in the Bundesliga while he was serving with the British army in Germany. The family lived in Germany, and Ian used to go to matches with Owen’s older brother, Ethan.

He continued to follow the club, and befriended the chairman of its UK fan club, Christian Wissing, on Facebook.

When Christian saw Ian’s posts about Owen, aged 15, he and his partner Birgit Dworschak wanted to do something for Owen, and sent him a selection of Schalke related items including a shirt, scarf and banner.

Owen Williams, pictured with his parents Claire and Ian. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP-10-12-19-Williams 3-NMSY

Owen then sent them a video message saying thank-you.

And that hearfelt message was picked up by the main fan club of the team, who play in the city of Gelsenkirchen, in Germany.

And when they heard about Owen they also wanted to do something for him. So fan club official Oliver Hoffmann called the family to offer a trip to Germany for an all expenses paid weekend, taking in a match as well.

Ian said: "They have been so kind. Every night after we switch the television off I’ve been talking to Owen about going to Schalke, and going to visit some of the places he used to know when we lived in that area.”

Owen Williams shows his scar after he had first had his operation

Ian and his wife Claire, aged 42, met while they were both serving in the army, attached to the Royal Signals Regiment. They moved to Germany with the army in 2006 and lived there as a family for four years. Ian started going to matches when a friend said he went to watch.

He said: “Owen is really looking forward to going to Germany now. The way the German fans have rallied round is wonderful – they’ve been really amazing.

“Owen had a terrible time with his tumour, but there’s light and the end of the tunnel. We were very worried at the time, but he is doing very well.”