It’s often said that Sunderland fans go the extra mile for their team – but one supporter is set to take that to a whole new level.
Enrico Milani, who lives on Lake Iseo, Italy, has followed the Black Cats since 1990, and is accustomed to making long journeys to support his football heroes.
However, he will take on an entirely different challenge ahead of Sunderland’s first Premier League home game of next season, as he cycles the estimated 2,000km to the Stadium of Light from his home.
Enrico will raise funds for the mascot of his ‘Black Cats of Italy’ fans’ group, Nina, a four-year-old who is living with an extremely rare medical condition.
He hopes to raise £5,000 for Nina’s family, and is expecting a “fantastic and emotional” occasion when he arrives at the Stadium of Light for Sunderland’s game against Norwich City on August 15.
He will be riding alone, and will set off on July 25, with his estimated arrival in Sunderland on August 12, three days before the match.
It will be fantastic and emotional to arrive inside the stadiumEnrico Milani
Enrico, 42, who is originally from Brescia and normally makes the trip to watch Sunderland about four times a season, said: “I’m doing the bike ride to celebrate my 25th year as a Sunderland supporter, and to support little Nina.
“I’m sure it’s going to be very tough, especially the third stage, when I will go through the Alps.
“It will be fantastic and emotional to arrive inside the stadium.
“The club has promised me a very warm welcome, and my bike will stay forever inside the stadium in a particular place, where my story will be told.”
Enrico says he will dedicate one stage to the memory of Nikki Allen, the seven-year-old Sunderland schoolgirl who was murdered in 1992.
On his travels, he will pass through Italy, Switzerland, Germany and France, and he will mark his trip to Sunderland with a party following the Norwich game with friends and fans at the Corner Flag, in High Street West, Sunderland.
Enrico, who is a fitness coach and personal trainer, only supports Sunderland, and follows no Italian team.
He took the club to his heart when he watched a game on TV, and was impressed by Roker Park and the “superb fans”.
His first match was a home game in the 1990s against Ipswich Town, while his last visit to Wearside was in February for a game against West Bromwich Albion, and he was at Stamford Bridge for the final game of the season, against Chelsea.