My football holiday turned into a nightmare and I was banged up abroad – inside Irish fan’s 36 hours of hell

ROVER’s RETURN

AN IRISH footie fan that was trapped in Bulgaria due to an issue with the photo on his passport was finally released after 36 hours of holiday hell.

Dan Fulham, who spent years as Rovers mascot Hooperman, was freed following a campaign led by his mum that also enlisted the help of football legends Robbie Keane and Stilyan Petrov.

Daniel Fulham was removed from his bus at the Romanian border while travelling home

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Daniel Fulham was removed from his bus at the Romanian border while travelling home

Robbie Keane with Shamrock Rovers mascot Hooperman

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Robbie Keane with Shamrock Rovers mascot HoopermanCredit: Sportsfile – Subscription

Daniel Fulham ,28, from Dublin had travelled to Bulgaria to watch his beloved Shamrock Rovers side take on Ludogorets in the Champions League earlier this week.

However, the popular DJ’s football trip turned to a nightmare when Bulgarian border cops locked him up over a bizarre claim that the photo on his passport was not really him.

Daniel, who was the Rovers mascot Hooperman for a number of years, was on a bus home with around 20 other Rovers fans on Tuesday evening when they went to cross the border into Romania.

Border cops were checking passports on the bus when they stopped at Daniel and removed him from the bus.

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The Bulgarian authorities did not believe that the photo on the passport was actually Daniel – despite the Dubliner having travelled on the same passport several times in recent weeks.

In a bid to prove his identity, Daniel showed cops alternative IDs, his social media accounts and even tried to hold his ears back to mirror his passport photo but they still didn’t believe him.

Cops arrested the Rovers fans and locked him up for two nights in the city of Ruse before politicians in Ireland were forced to intervene to free him following a campaign from his mother Noleen and Daniel’s friend Eoin Ryan, a Sinn Fein rep, who is also a Rovers fan.

Footie fans even managed to enlist the help of Ireland legend Robbie Keane through social media who reached out to Bulgarian star Stiliyan Petrov to ask for his help.

Former Celtic star Petrov later tweeted Sinn Fein TD John Brady to say that he was fighting to free Daniel and that he would be attending the home leg of Rovers Vs Ludogorets next week.

He said: “On the case since this morning John. I will be at the game Tuesday against Shamrock Rovers. I hope the guys will be back by then.”

Noeleen only found out that her son was trapped in Bulgaria when a friend who was on the bus rang her to tell her that he had been taken away.

On Wednesday morning, Noleen received a panicked call from Daniel who had been granted two minutes to make a phone call.

Noeleen told the Irish Sun: “He got two minutes on the phone and he got on and said ‘Mam help, I’m terrified’.

“I was just terrified for him. He is an absolute gem of a young man that has never caused me a day of trouble and I was so worried for him.”

Noeleen spent all day on Wednesday working with local councillors, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the passport office and the gardai in a bid to try to free her son.

MUM’S WORRY

Bulgarian authorities demanded that she send them a number of documents to prove Daniel’s identity but even after they received the files they refused to free him.

Noeleen said: “I spent yesterday getting as much ID as I could and that was all sent.

“We got everything they needed and sent it over to the Embassy including a confirmation from the passport office here and they still won’t let him go.

“Daniel’s been through a lot. He was in ICU last year and two years ago with multiple organ collapse and I’m really worried about him.

“I’m not just saying this because he’s my son, he is one of the nicest young men you could meet. There’s not a bad bone in his body.

“His life is Shamrock Rovers. He eats, sleeps and breathes it and never misses any of the matches

“To be held over saying the photograph is not him? In the photo he is a bit bloated because he was on medication from the operation but Daniel is also a DJ and he does shows all over London and England and he was in Malta last week with no issues.”

‘VERY DIFFICULT’

The Bulgarian Embassy in Dublin told the Irish Sun that they had been in contact with the border police and the Embassy in Sofia about the issue.

They said: “We are confident that all the procedures are being thoroughly followed and the case will be resolved soon in the spirit of the rule of law.”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was forced to intervene to try and secure Daniel’s release as he tweeted: “My Department and our embassies are working on this.”

Shortly after the Minister’s intervention, Shamrock Rovers announced on their social media that Daniel had secured his release and was making his way home.

A taxi brought Daniel across the Romanian border to the Irish embassy in Bucharest.

The Rovers mad fan was then due to board a flight home which was paid for by his club.

A spokesman for Rovers said: “It has been a very difficult 36 hours for Daniel’s family, especially his mother Noeleen, and for his many friends at Shamrock Rovers.

“We wish to acknowledge the efforts made by a number of local politicians and the Department of Foreign Affairs to bring this terribly unfortunate incident to an end and get Daniel home.”

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In a social media post online, Daniel thanked everyone involved in the campaign for his release.

He said: “Really appreciate all the concerns and incredible work from everyone involved to help me get home. I should be on a flight home to Dublin tonight.”

Shamrock Rovers announced that Daniel had secured his release and was making his way home

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Shamrock Rovers announced that Daniel had secured his release and was making his way home

Daniel Fulham with his mum Noeleen Meyler Fulham, who worked with local authorities in a bid to free her son

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Daniel Fulham with his mum Noeleen Meyler Fulham, who worked with local authorities in a bid to free her son

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