It has been a challenging year for all Swans fans.
Such is the nature of a truly global pandemic, that no matter what part of the globe you call home, you’ve had to deal with the challenges of Covid-19.
From lockdowns across Australia, to curfews currently in place in Victoria. It has been an unprecedented year in so many ways.
But spare a thought for a Swans fan, dealing with the Covid pandemic, while living in Lebanon, during the horrific explosion at the Port of Beirut.
It took an inquisitive Swans Member Support Manager in Anita Murphy to get in contact in with Bloods 2020 member Matthew Serventy.
After some Swans mail, directed to his listed address in Switzerland was returned to sender, Anita dug a little deeper into Matthew’s membership account to ensure his information was up to date.
What she noticed, was a new residential address listed in Beirut, Lebanon.
Having seen the devastation play out on the news here in Australia just weeks earlier, Anita reached out to Matthew to see if he was ok. A line in her email to him read; “You are part of the Sydney Swans family, and family helps out when times are tough, so if we can assist with anything please don’t hesitate to reach out to us”.
Hours later, Matthew responded, recounting his and wife Rekha’s harrowing tale of being so close to the blast that killed 190 and wounded thousands.
Matthew explained that he and Rekha had moved to Beirut 10 days before the city was placed into a Covid lockdown.
As things opened up briefly, he found a gym to join in a new building with panoramic windows looking out to the Mediterranean and Beirut Port.
He had only been at the gym a short while before the building “disintegrated in a snowstorm of flying glass and debris.”
“The gym was mayhem, blood and glass everywhere, people screaming and running from the building,” he explained.
“My first guess was that it was car bomb, and so thought I would stay put for a few moments in case there was a follow up outside.
“I went down to get my phone and house keys, literally just ripped the locker door right off its hinges, in too much of a hurry to fiddle with the combination.
“Outside the mayhem continued, with immediate first aid to stop bleeding, people bundling into cars and screeching away.
“I arrived on my pushbike, so jumped on and headed home. I had imagined that I was in the epicentre, so things would improve and I wanted to let Rekha know that I was alright.
“But as I moved through downtown the destruction just grew and grew, with building after building smashed. I kept telling myself that our building was new and probably ok, but the closer I got to home the less likely this became.
“When I arrived the huge front door of the building was blown in, and there was no wall between the foyer and ground floor owners' apartment.
“They told me that all the apartments were destroyed, so I dumped my bike and with my heart in my throat up ran up six flights - and heard Rekha's voice shouting that she was ok but trapped.
“A door and wall had shifted and trapped her in the back of the apartment, so she couldn't get out, but full of adrenaline I pushed the door out of the way, and we were very happy to see each other! Bloody but alive!” Matthew recalls.
The blast, caused by an explosion at a facility storing huge amounts of ammonium nitrate, devasted the city. It is estimated some 6,500 people were injured, with 300,000 people left homeless by the destruction of more than 10 billion dollars worth of property.
Matthew and Rekha are both doing well following the incident, with Matthew saying that watching the Swans from abroad is just the tonic he needs after such a traumatic event.
He has been a Swans fan since the early 90s and says that while he hasn’t been able to attend a game live for some time due to living overseas, he watches as many games as he can online.
A season highlight for this year was the win over the Giants, that he watched from a hotel garden on his phone, surrounded by local Lebanese wondering what all the fist pumping and shouting was about.
In response to Anita’s offer of help, he has just two requests; a premiership; and to let people around the Club know that even in the midst of a disaster, in the middle of Beirut, someone is watching the team, enjoying the much needed break from reality.