Former Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundowan surprises young fans with Barcelona trip

Credit: Community Integrated Care

Former Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundowan has proven he has not forgotten his North West home after giving three super fans the trip of a lifetime.

Gundowan, who now plays for Barcelona, flew Kayley, Daniel and Katie out to the Spanish city to watch his team's game against Real Sociedad, before spending time with them at the training ground.

The trio are all supported by Community Integrated Care, a charity supported by Gundowan after he became involved during lockdown in 2020.

Kayley Davies from Tameside, Daniel Wilmott from Stockport, and Katie Richardson from Warrington, each enjoyed the once-in-lifetime experience with their families and support teams.

Katie said: “To me, Ilkay is a legend on and off the pitch. I was in total shock when I was told that I was going to Barcelona to see him play.

"It was even better having the chance to meet him at the training ground - talking about football and all the things that I do with Community Integrated Care.

“Ilkay has changed the lives of so many people who are supported by our charity. I will never forget this experience. He will forever be my football hero.”

The three young fans had a chance to watch Barcelona play Real Sociedad. Credit: Community Integrated Care

The avid City fans flew to Barcelona to enjoy two days in the city, seeing their hero's team beat Real Sociedad 2-0 on Monday 13 May.

They were the surprised with an invitation to meet Gundowan at Barcelona's training ground, for an exclusive experience.

During the "dream come true" visit and "best day ever" the group collected autographs, reminisced about the German player's heroics for City and found out about his new life in Barcelona.

Credit: Community Integrated Care

Despite leaving Manchester City in 2023, the iconic midfielder has kept his ties with the Manchester charity, after becoming a steadfast supporter in a bid to help the city's social care services through the isolation of lockdown.

For Kayley, the experience gave her the opportunity to reconnect with a man who has been an inspirational presence in her life - arranging socially distanced visits to her care service during lockdown, inviting her to City games, and arranging for her - and almost 150 other City fans supported by the charity - to enjoy a special party for the famous 2023 UEFA Champions League Final win.

For avid City fans, Katie, who is autistic and accesses personal development programmes with the charity, and Daniel, who has a learning disability, the experience represented an achievement that was beyond their greatest dreams.

Ilkay Gundogan, said: “It’s been amazing to see the guys from Community Integrated Care again and to see Kayley, Daniel and Katie so happy and smiling a lot.

"I still feel very connected to the city of Manchester and I’m very happy we could manage that together to bring them to my new city and to show them where I play and work now. They have told me they enjoyed the city a lot. I hope to see all of them again soon.”

Credit: Community Integrated Care

Gundowan, an Ambassador for the social care charity, also gave many their first chance at a trip abroad.

John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities at Community Integrated Care, said: “This experience truly represented the people we support living their best life possible.

"The opportunity to fly on a plane, visit a new county, watch an iconic football team and meet your hero would be an incredible experience for any person, but for the people we support to be enabled to overcome the barriers that they face and enjoy these moments was magical.

“Ilkay will forever have the respect and gratitude of Community Integrated Care. He promised the people we support during the most difficult moments of their life, at the peak of the pandemic, that he would stay in touch and support them in happier times.

“He has truly lived up to that promise in ways that are unprecedented. The fact that he has maintained this relationship with our charity even from Barcelona shows the enduring respect that he has for our teams and every City supporter."