Sunderland fans pay tribute to Newcastle fans who died in Malaysia Airlines crash

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Sunderland and Newcastle boast one of the biggest soccer rivalries in all of England, and the winners of the Tyne-Wear Derby claim bragging rights, even when the rest of the season is not going smoothly. Supporters seem to delight in the other clubs’ misfortunes almost as much as they take pleasure in their own side’s success.

It’s a feeling most sports fans are quite familiar with, taking pleasure in a rival’s pain.

But sometimes, tragedy strikes so hard, and so close to home, that humanity triumphs over sporting alliances.

Two Newcastle fans, John Alder and Liam Sweeney, were on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 when it was shot down on Thursday. All 298 people aboard died in the crash. The two were on their way to to see Newcastle in a pre-season tour of New Zealand.

Sunderland fans used crowdfunding site GoFundMe to solicit donations, originally hoping to collect £100 for a floral tribute to Alder and Sweeny. Over 2,000 donations have come in since Friday, raising £18,313 (~$31,291). The fans responsible for setting up the site stated that money left over from the floral tribute would be donated to charity.

The message on GoFundMe reads:

We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games. The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided. 

Thank you for your time, effort and donations.

RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young