Sometimes in life we don’t realise how happy we can make someone with a simple signature or a photo.
Right after Euro 2008 I flew to Los Angeles to relax and have a holiday away from my day to day life. A friend and I decided to have breakfast on the sunset strip and as we set down we saw a group of Russian guys sitting. We both glanced at them and gave each other the same look – let’s not mess with them.
One of them looked a little like Putin and had a constant look of anger on his face, and another one was wearing a Holland shirt. I thought I didn’t fly 12 hours from football-mad Europe to meet a fan.
Then this guy stood up from the group and walked over to my friend and I. We both starting talking as if we were in a deep conservation before he interrupted to ask if I was Mario. He asked for an autograph saying “I’ve seen a lot of famous people growing up in LA but Holland is my team – would you mind signing my shirt?”
They asked us to join them and we were apprehensive at first, but we ended up having an amazing breakfast and they were super nice. The only issue was the angry Putin lookalike was sitting right in front of me and I couldn’t understand his strong Russian accent. When he would say something I just smiled because I thought I ain’t asking him to repeat it or he might go crazy.
I swapped numbers with the Holland fan who was called Dimitry, and I texted him twice but got no reply, so thought I would call to say thanks for the meal as I was leaving the next day. He picked up and said “I’m sorry but I don’t know how to text, do you want to go for lunch?”
He picked me up at the hotel, and on our way to dinner another car crossed in front of us and we pulled up at the side of the road. A lady got out and it turned out to be his beautiful wife, Natella. She said hi to me in a way that was classy and warm before heading back to work. Me and Dimitry sat down and straight away we had a connection.
Not long after that Dimitry flew with two friends to see me in Europe. I showed them London and Amsterdam the way I enjoy it. They were so grateful that the next summer when I flew back to LA they gave me a car for my time there, picked me up for lunch almost everyday day, and took me to a few LA Lakers games so I could experience them winning two finals.
I was shocked at first because it’s not easy to find generous people who like you for who you are and don’t expect anything in return. It was refreshing and our friendship kept growing stronger and stronger. When you are new to a city it’s hard to settle down and find your way around. But thanks to my dear friend Dimitry and his family it’s been super easy to settle in.
He helps me with everything like finding my place, getting a car and making sure I’m feeling great every day. More like a big brother would do for his little brother.
It’s his birthday this week and we’re celebrating it in typical Dimitry style. Before we left he said “you only need your clothing, don’t worry about bringing any money.” He flew a group of 11 people to Cabo in Mexico and set us up like kings and queens. The One&Only is easily one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Beach food and trips on this amazing boat – and we’re not even done yet.
You and your beautiful family have brought so much joy to my life that I could only dream of. Thank you so much for everything Dima.