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Nomadic Womble retains Wimbledon spirit

The tale of how Neal's picture has travelled the world

12 December 2017

By Rob Cornell

A signed photo featuring Neal Ardley in his playing days has travelled the world in recent years, but it's now proudly on display at the family home in Cape Town of one nomadic AFC Wimbledon fan.

Following our recent feature in which supporter Saori Ide spoke of her journey from Japan to The Cherry Red Records Stadium, we asked for more long-distance Wimbledon fans to get in to touch to gauge how far our fan base extends and Maggie Miranda's story didn't disappoint!

Maggie, who now lives in South Africa, recently became a lifetime member of the Dons Trust and she'll be visiting for our game against Southend United on New Year's Day.

"It's 20 years since I left SW19. I grew up on Effra Road, but now I'm far from home," said Maggie.

"In 2001 we donated our time to the NGO VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas). Our skills were matched with a request from a teacher training college in Zambia to work there as lecturers and mentor the trainee teachers.

"So many of the student teachers were obsessed with Premier League football, but they all supported the obvious 'top four' teams at the time. I shared many stories of being a Wimbledon supporter and the students listened with interest. Wimbledon F.C?! None of them knew that Wimbledon had beaten Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final!

"We trained over 1,100 teachers over two years, designed an HIV education programme and travelled all over the province with work. It was the least money that we ever earned, but the best job we ever had," she explained.

"I wrote to Terry Burton (Wimbledon's manager at the time) from Zambia, telling him about the college and requesting last season's kit for the students. He wrote back and one of the things that he sent me was a signed picture of all the boys, with him in the middle and our current manager, Neal Ardley, at the front!

"Since then we have moved to Japan, U.A.E, Kenya and Indonesia for teaching positions. Our adopted home is now South Africa. That framed photo has moved everywhere with me, and now has pride of place in our Braai terrace in Cape Town.

"Vinnie Jones was my favourite player back in the Crazy Gang days, but later on it was definitely Neal. I'm delighted that he ended up as our manager. He is the epitome of the Wimbledon FC spirit."

Opportunities to see the Dons don't come along often for Maggie, with her Womble on the sofa back home (see photos above). She is hoping to take back more great Dons memories to share with some of the neighbours – the local wildlife back in South Africa!

"There's no other media exposure for the Dons out here – just me spreading the word! I always follow the Dons on facebook and the website. I've really enjoyed the club's tunnel cam at the beginning of matches.

“We get back to UK about once each year and try to get to a match. This year we will be visiting our parents for Christmas and I hope to start my New Year at The Cherry Red Records Stadium to watch the game against Southend. Unfortunately though, I miss the Spurs FA Cup tie by two days as I will have travelled back from the UK again! 

Although Maggie won’t be able to be at Wembley to cheer on the Dons against Tottenham, she is determined not to miss the day that Wimbledon walk out back at their spiritual home.

“Over the years I’ve watched from afar and seen how our team has progressed and defeated the odds, time and time again. Like all Wimbledon supporters, I can’t wait for the game to be back at Plough Lane and I will fly back for the first match there.”

Are you a long distance fan with a story to tell of how you became involved with AFC Wimbledon?

E-mail robert.cornell@afcwimbledon.ltd.uk and your story could also feature on our official website. Alternatively, send your picture wearing your Dons colours to our official Twitter page, using #iFollowDons or via facebook.


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