Notts County gave an American family their first taste of English football when they travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to watch the 2018-19 season opener.
To celebrate Rafael’s 18th birthday, mum and dad Suzy and Humberto Lopez jetted to Nottingham from Miami with 11-year-old Susan – who celebrated her birthday the day before the Colchester game – in tow.
They were seated in the sensory rooms in the Derek Pavis Family Stand, which are designed to help supporters with complex learning difficulties enjoy the match in comfort.
Rafael was able to sit with his friend Ellie Neal, from Nottingham, who he had started an online friendship with three years ago.
When asked what he wanted to do for his 18th birthday, his answer was: “Come to England to meet Ellie,” and the Sensory Rooms gave them the perfect opportunity to spend time together in a comfortable environment.
Suzy was hugely impressed by these facilities, especially as they are not yet available in the USA.
And Susan took full advantage of Meadow Lane’s facilities as well.
The youngster – who plays in goal for Orlando Pride and has aims of making the USA’s Olympic team in future – took part in a Football in the Community session on the 4G pitch in the Haydn Green Family Stand.
She was also bought a personalised kit as an 11th birthday present, as the family picked up a selection of souvenirs to take home.
They were paid a visit by midfielders Tom Crawford and Will Patching who presented birthday cards signed by the team to both children.
And though the game’s result was not what quite what everyone wanted, the family wouldn't have changed their experience for the world.
‘The Wheelbarrow Song’ and ‘Black and White Army’ were belted out by the Lopez clan and Humberto even switched his shirt at half-time to show his allegiance to Notts.
Like many others, the family were amazed by our history as the world's oldest Football League club and impressed by the links to Juventus – and now they are fully-fledged supporters.
Suzy explained: “We were treated like royalty and are now proud fans of this football club.
“We loved our first ever English football match and want to thank the club and players for helping us share our love for the sport with Notts County.
“Come on you Pies!”
Click here for more information on the Sensory Rooms at Meadow Lane.