Edinburgh Hearts fans retrieve flag tribute to young fan who died after it was stolen by Greek football ultras
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The Jambos travelled to Thessaloniki in northern Greece last week for the second leg of the Edinburgh club’s UEFA Europa Conference League qualifying stage tie with PAOK. They had taken with them a banner paying tribute to Fraser Wanless, a former Portobello High School pupil who died on July 24, 2021.
Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Jambos supporter Robbie Mackay, 23, said: “Basically, it was after the game, and Fraser’s dad Phillip and brother Harry were walking through a dark alley on their way back to their rented apartment. And there were a lot of PAOK fans around the area, and he knew something was up. Then one of the PAOK fans ran up to him, grabbed the flag off him, and ran away.
“He didn't bother to try and get the flag back at the time, as it was so dodgy, and there were so many of them.
“On the PAOK ultras fan page, they were mocking the Hearts fans, boasting about how they had stolen their flag. Normally, if the ultras steal a club's flag, it is to embarrass them – and some Hearts fans were giving them abuse on social media, saying how sick it was.”
The flag was eventually returned to the group from the Capital, but they had to put themselves in a potentially risky situation to get it back.
“The next day, however, one of the PAOK fans reached out to one of the Hearts fans, and said how sorry they were,” said Robbie.
“By this point, most of the Hearts fans, including Fraser’s dad, had returned to Edinburgh, but the fans who had stayed on in Greece, including myself, had to go to an Irish bar called The Dubliner where the ultras hang out to get the flag back from them.
“It was a potentially dodgy situation, but we met a group of them there and they said how sorry they were about it. We were just glad to get the flag back to be honest.”
PAOK’s ultras also issued an apology on Twitter, writing: “On Thursday after the game, two banners of the Hearts fans were taken. One of these two banners concerns a 20-year-old Hearts fan.
“We learned the story and the reason this banner was made so we decided it was right to return it to the boy’s father. We have always respected the dead as we lost friends and companions as well.”