Wembley flight leads to paper plane fame for Horsham man

Blair Valentine-Purnell of Horsham threw the paper plane that struck Peru's Hansell Riojas
Blair Valentine-Purnell of Horsham threw the paper plane that struck Peru's Hansell Riojas

England may have beaten Peru 3-0 at Wembley on Friday (May 30), but the biggest cheer of the night did not greet a goal or the final whistle.

It was reserved for when a paper aeroplane thrown from the stands by a Horsham man sailed all the way down to the pitch, and comically struck Peruvian defender Hansell Riojas in the head.

Football fan Blair Valentine-Purnell, 22, who is from Horsham, crafted the paper aircraft and let fly during the second half of the international friendly.

A video of the flight shot by another fan has received more than three million views on YouTube, and the footage was shown on television after the match.

Blair, who attended Forest School and Collyer’s college, and now goes to university in London, said: “Quite a few people had taken the cards we were given to make noise as aeroplanes, and a few managed to make the pitch.

“I had a spare one and it seemed like a good idea, I couldn’t imagine anything going wrong!”

The roar from the crowd that greeted the plane hitting Riojas after a 20-second flight left commentators and the television audience confused.

ITV showed the incident after the game, and presenter Adrian Chiles quipped: “Ooh, what a shot.”

Blair said: “When we got to the game we only expected cheering for England, something like that happening was more than you can imagine.

“I had no idea we were being filmed. I spoke to the girl who filmed it at the end of the game, I thought it was one of those things that was a funny thing to show people - then it blew up overnight!

“We couldn’t believe how much attention it was getting, when I heard it has made news in America and Australia, it doesn’t seem like it was me.”

Blair was watching an England match live for the first time, and stressed his first trip to Wembley was memorable in other ways.

He said: “It didn’t overshadow my first England experience.

“Stepping in to Wembley for the first time, the atmosphere was amazing - 80,000 people in great spirits for the last warm-up game at Wembley before the World Cup.”

Blair, who is set to graduate from university this summer, defended his actions after receiving some criticism on the internet.

He added: “I’ve read a lot of comments on the videos, people saying ‘he’s a bit of an idiot’.

“At the end of the day it took me a minute to make the aeroplane and a second to throw it, and I didn’t miss any of the game.

“We were enjoying watching the football and it was 20 seconds that turned into a few unbelievable days.”