From Belgium to Burnley via Brazil was the travelplan for the globetrotting parents of Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who were guests at Turf Moor for the debut of their famous footballing son.
Belgium’s World Cup goalkeeper made his debut for the London giants in Burnley’s opening Premier League match on Monday, and his proud parents Thierry and Gitte were there as guests of Burnley businessman Stephen Dodgson.
Stephen’s brother Jason, who is a neighbour of the couple in the Belgian town of Bilzen, gave them a tour of his home town before the big match, even taking in tea at the Inn on the Wharf.
It has been a whirlwind few months for the big Belgian who played all his country’s games in the World Cup in Brazil and played for loan club Atletico Madrid in this year’s Champions League final in Lisbon.
Speaking before the match, Thierry and Gitte said: “We are hoping Thibaut has a good game and keeps a clean sheet. We spoke to him in the morning and he was not nervous.
“We watched Thibaut in Brazil and of course in Lisbon. It is nice to come to Burnley and see a different stadium. We have been treated well here at Turf Moor.”
Thierry’s own talents as a volleyball player probably helped hone the skills passed on to his son that have catapulted young Thibaut’s career as a goalkeeper – that and his 6ft.6in frame.
Jason, meanwhile, told the Express about his own journey in the opposite direction, from Burnley to Belgium.
He said: “I was born in Holcombe Drive and worked for Willie Holt’s in Accrington Road making snooker tables.
“Funnily enough, this was what took me to Belgium. Around 25 years ago satellite television really took off on the continent and this introduced those countries to snooker.
“I went over to fit snooker tables and now run an off-licence supplying restaurants. I love my life there.”
Former St Theodore’s pupil Jason has never looked back. He married a local girl Sandy and the couple have two children Jake and Sam, who are tri-lingual. Jason himself can speak Flemish, one of the country’s two languages.
His brother Stephen works as a director at Lowerhouse-based Carbon Footprint Experts Ltd.