In an incredible gesture, SV Darmstadt 98 have renamed their stadium the Jonathan-Heimes-Stadion am Böllenfalltor in commemoration of deceased supporter Johnny Heimes.
Heimes was a former tennis prodigy and much-loved fan whose battle with cancer proved to be one of the inspirations behind the Lilies’ successful bid for promotion to the Bundesliga in 2014/15.
He tragically passed away in March at the age of 26, but the club have honoured his memory by renaming their tradition-laden home in tribute to him, with premium sponsor, the science and technology company Merck, forgoing their naming rights to the arena for the rest of this season.
'Johnny's living room'
Club captain Aytac Sulu, who along with the rest of the squad, celebrated Darmstadt’s promotion with Johnny in front of thousands of jubilant fans in the city’s Karolinenplatz in May 2015, expressed his joy with the stadium’s new title.
“We’re playing in Johnny’s living room now, which is a motivation in itself,” said the 30-year-old. “We want to stay up again this season and this connection will spur us on even more. Every Darmstadt fan who identifies with us identifies with Johnny too.”
'Nothing is lost yet'
German for ‘You have to fight on’, the DUMUSSTKÄMPFEN foundation is a non-profit organisation set up by Heimes and Darmstadt native and professional tennis player Andrea Petkovic in February 2015 to help young cancer sufferers.
The words resonated strongly with the team that season – former midfielder Tobias Kempe had another of Heimes’ statements, “Es ist noch nichts verloren” (“Nothing is lost yet”), tattooed on his arm – and Heimes was a guest of honour at the promotion celebrations three months later. His battle with cancer, with which he was diagnosed at the age of 14, continued into this year, before his death on 8 March.