Tribute to Hans de Roon, Dutch-born Sunderland AFC fanatic, who has sadly passed away aged 78
Sunderland AFC fanatic Hans de Roon has sadly passed away aged 78.
Has there ever been a more devoted Sunderland fan?
Back in 1994, Hans de Roon swapped his life in Holland for Wearside so that he could be nearer to his beloved Roker Park.
But his life-long passion for Sunderland began over 30-years earlier.
The Dutchman fell in love with English football during his holidays to England in the 1960s and Sunderland quickly became his favourite club.
Hans discovered the club as a 12-year-old in 1956 when Sunderland played Sparta Rotterdam.
He was intrigued by the name having seen it reported in a Dutch newspaper.
To Hans, Sunderland represented the home of football and he started making trips to Wearside.
But what was it that he loved about the Black Cats? He said back in 1994: “In some ways, Dutch football is better but I miss the passion and that is what there is in the North East.”
Hans was also the founder of a Dutch group of British football fans called the Continentals in Rotterdam back in 1978.
In 1981, a number of fellow Continentals joined him in a visit to the city and he arranged a football match between the fan group and the Sunderland supporters club.
Due to the lack of European fans in attendance at Sunderland games in those days, Hans attracted quite a bit of attention from the media, both in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands.
Indeed, the media loved to hear the story of how he had fallen in love with Sunderland – and, of course, Hans was always happy to oblige.
Hans made many friends during his stays in Sunderland.
Those included Geoff Davidson, a key figure at the club during the 1980s.
But in November 1994, Hans took his love for the club to another level. He realized his personal ambition and moved from Rotterdam to Sunderland.
By then, Hans had retired as a civil servant and nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling his dream.
The city became his home.
The media loved it, with Hans even having to organize a press conference at the stadium.
For four years Hans lived in Roker and from his window could see his beloved Roker Park.
During that period he went to nearly every Sunderland home game and quite a few away games.
He returned to Rotterdam where he lived for a few more years before he moved to Breda in the south of Holland.
But as he became older, traveling became harder and although his loyalty for the club never wavered, he had to limit the number of visits to Sunderland to once a year.
He was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of February this year and spent the last few weeks of his life on a ward in a Breda hospital.
Hans peacefully passed away on the morning of March 25.
Hans’ funeral will be in Breda on April 2, 2021, but due to Covid 19, only 30 people will be able to attend.
Erik van den Polder, a friend of Hans, told the Echo: “Hans was a lovely person with a genuine passion for British football and without any doubt, Sunderland’s biggest ambassador in the Netherlands. He will be sadly missed by his family and friends.”