Dawid Zapisek became famous worldwide as Iker Cassilas bade farewell to his young fan last week. Dawid passed away on Tuesday and his funeral was like his life – full of pyrotechnics and chants about his beloved club. In the age of 14 he is perhaps the most quoted supporter in Poland.
When he was born in 1998, doctors told Dawid’s mother Sylwia that despite her son being a strong child, he won’t live longer than 7 years, at best. Diagnosed with muscle atrophy he had a death sentence on him for the whole time, but both him and his mother decided they won’t give up on his life without making the very best of it.
Dawid’s passion for football soon became apparent. In his short life he visited some 100 games in various cities despite each trip being a potential risk to his life. When approached by a journalist asking if it’s not exhausting, he said “Yes, yes it is. But why would this be a reason not to do this?”. When asked if it’s not better to watch a game on the telly, he gasped and replied that he’s a supporter, television wasn’t an option.
Iker – role model
Apart from home team Lechia Gdansk Dawid had a second favourite team, Real Madrid. In both Real and Spanish national team he always said Iker Casillas was the one he was looking up to. So when Poland hosted Euro 2012 and Spain chose Gdansk’s satellite town of Gniewino for their training centre, it seemed to be a dream-come-true.
His Mom instantly started contacting everyone to arrange a meeting with the goalkeeper, but probably never expected Casillas to get so attached to the boy.
"The story caught my attention. He was a boy who wanted to meet us and meet me. He gave me a small present, a teddy bear. Then we spent a few days together where he would become close to us. He was very happy, as were we. The fact we were with him made him so happy, imagine what that meant for us." said Casillas this week, recalling their meeting.
After Champions League game against Manchester City numerous speculations arose as to why Casillas didn’t celebrate Ronaldo’s late winner. He dismissed all of them when reminding, that his friend had died on the very same day.
Dawid – role model
But just as Iker became Dawid’s idol, so is Dawid cherished now in Poland for his unbelievable will to fight for each and every day he had, often reminding that he already made the medical estimations look stupid by doubling his lifespan. Not being able to move on his own and weighing just 10 kilograms (22 pounds), he needed his Mom who thankfully took the football hype from her son. One of his last games was the Euro 2012 final in Kyiv, 1,200 km (or 740 miles) from his home.
The very last one – his funeral. Before passing away, Dawid asked his Mother not to make his farewell into a sad gathering, he hoped for her not to cry. Instead of blacks he wanted the green-white stripes of Lechia, flags and flares – as many as possible. His words “To live I need the smoke from flares, the support and voices from thousands of throats at the stadium” are now being repeated with numerous declarations by football supporters saying it’s not really Iker for them, it’s actually Dawid who was a teacher of life.
As told at the funeral, his only fear was that people wouldn’t come to the funeral at all. One easily dismissed by thousands in attendance.
Last away trip
At Dawid’s funeral on Friday, his mother symbolically lit a flare as he preferred. Just a day later she took her perhaps last away trip to Krakow, 600 km (370 miles) south. This was a game for Dawid as Wisła and Lechia are befriended football teams at whose games the boy was present numerous times.
And just as expected, fans of both sides shared the same message, pledging to never forget Dawid both in writing and in chants after first having paid respect in a moment of silence.
Actually, there was no moment of silence as – what doesn’t happen in Poland – the crowd stood up, started applauding him and shouting out his name. The away section that day had only one flag, one with Dawid. And his words about how he needed the atmosphere of stadiums to keep living.
And just as Dawid was sure that flares are a part of the spectacle, so were his fellow Lechia supporters who at the beginning of the second half covered their section with a banner saying “pyrotechnics are safe”. Worth mentioning, despite flares being treated as a severe crime inside Polish stadia, this time supporters weren’t hiding, they chose to use their pyro in the safest possible way – next to rather than under the banner and extinguishing them as soon as the flame went small. Though the match had to be stopped for a moment after smoke was too overwhelming, this time there was almost no negative coverage in the media…