Bundesliga minnows SV Darmstadt have announce that they will rename their stadium in honour of Johnny Heimes, a fan who died from cancer earlier this year. Technology company Merck waved their naming rights for this season, allowing the club to rename their home ground the Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion-am-Böllenfalltor for the duration of the 2016/17 season.
Heimes was a tennis star as a child, but was later diagnosed with cancer at the age of 14. He raised millions of euros in charity, setting up a childrens cancer charity with tennis star Andrea Petkovic, before succumbing to the disease on March 8, 2016, aged 26. The much loved fan was an ever-present source of motivation as Darmstadt rose through the ranks of German football, earning promotion to the Bundesliga in the 2014/15 season.
The occasion was a joyous one, when the club celebrated with Heimes on stage in the city centre, including captain Aytac Sulu. The Darmstadt skipper was pleased with the decision, saying “We’re playing in Johnny’s living room now, which is a motivation in itself.”
“We want to stay up again this season and this connection will spur us on even more. Every Darmstadt fan who identifies with us identifies with Johnny too.”
The Merck group, who hold the naming rights, ought to be lauded for the gesture, with board member Kai Beckmann noting the company was ‘ready and willing’ and ‘delighted to do so in agreement with all parties.”
Translated to ‘You must fight on’, the Dumustkampfen foundation initated by Heimes and Petkovic lives on in spirit, with the deceased youngster’s father, Martin Heimes, applauding the decision, saying “It’s tremendous that Merck have named the stadium after our son Johnny, who loved and supported this club so much. This also helps ensure that the initiative ‘DUMUSSTKÄMPFEN’ goes on.”
The goodwill continued, with Darmstadt’s main sponsor, tech giants Software AG announcing that on March 8, 2017, the anniversary of Jonny Heimes’ death, the club witll play in a special edition kit featuring DUMUSSTKÄMPFEN’s logo instead of theirs, with kit sales going into the foundation’s coffers, alongwith a special edition wristband.
The city have also moved to pay tribute to Heimes, with one of the public trams to feature the words ‘Thank You Johnny!” set against the backdrop of the club’s colours. Darmstadt will play in their newly renamed stadium against Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.Published 05 Sep 2016, 23:42 IST