By Nosa Omoigui
February 28th 1998. Charlton Athletic host Huddersfield Town at home in the First Division, with 12,908 in The Valley watching Mark Bright score the decisive goal.
One of them was Seb Lewis.
That match would prove to be the first in a special run of 1,076 consecutive Charlton matches that Seb would attend, home and away, rain or shine.
The 1-0 EFL Championship defeat at home to Middlesbrough on March 7th would be his last. Seb passed away in March after contracting coronavirus, aged just 38.
It seems incredibly cruel that Seb didn’t get to end such an incredible streak on his own terms. To some football can be just a game but for Seb it was his everything.
The thought of my long run of 22 years of consecutive competitive @CAFCofficial games (1,076 in a row) could well be lying in the hands of the government (whether it's now, in a few weeks or months) is not the most comfortable feeling at all. ☹️— Seb Lewis (@SebLewis81) March 8, 2020
“Seb was someone who had followed Charlton through thick and thin,” notes Paul Breen, author of The Charlton Men.
“The bulk of his support came when we were going to less fashionable places; not your Old Traffords and your Anfields, but your Notts Countys and your Wycombe Wanderers.
“Football was the love of his life.”
The beauty of Seb’s support was in its simplicity – when Charlton played, he was there.
He attained superfan status by being a regular supporter with an incredibly obsessive yet endearing dedication to the cause – to the point that there exists an entire generation of Charlton fans who wouldn’t have gone to a game that Seb wasn’t also attending.
By all accounts he didn’t say much and did his own thing.
Yet even if they didn’t know him personally, every Charlton fan felt like they did and they’d almost certainly seen his famous flag at some point.
Paul continued: “Seb was the face of Charlton fandom. You’d always see him at home and away games.
“Every individual fan’s journey might include some encounter with him.”
Seb’s ubiquitous influence was universal and his support often lifted others around him.
One fan recalled a miserable trip to Preston earlier this season, which was put into perspective by Seb’s determination to cheer on the team at all costs.
It would be remiss not to mention his iconic worm celebration.
“I asked him about it,” recounts Louis Mendez, journalist and host of the Charlton Live podcast.
“He said it was just one of those things that started happening.
“People would see him at the ground and younger fans would start. chanting ‘Sebbo, do the worm!’ and sure enough he’d put his bag down and do the worm.”
“He did it up and down the country - fans loved him for it,” added club journalist Olly Groome.
“I was away on holiday in Turkey about ten years ago and Charlton were playing a friendly at Welling on that day and Sky Sports News were covering it.
“I was in the pool and as I was swimming back towards the bar I looked up and there on the big-screen TV was Seb doing the worm for all the world to see!"
And he was more than just a dance move.
Seb also loved to document his matchday experiences; his Facebook photos are a collection of train stations, pubs, landmarks and stadiums across the country.
Louis continued: “Every game he’d make a Facebook photo album and they were quite enjoyable.
“One day we were standing outside this bar in Nottingham and I saw him taking a photo of the bar so I waved to try and get in the picture.
“It was like a badge of honour being in Seb’s photo album.”
The club recognised his devotion in 2012/2013, as then manager Chris Powell handed him his supporter of the year award.
In typical fashion, he wormed in celebration.
💬"He will still be at every game in my eyes. Charlton will always be his family and his spirit will live on."— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) March 26, 2020
Addicks legend @ChrisPowell1969 has been in touch to pay a special tribute to Seb Lewis
👉https://t.co/b4mZRud396 #cafc #StayHomeForSeb pic.twitter.com/yn0vtotyTI
For 22 years he followed his beloved Charlton Athletic without faltering - and the average marriage doesn’t last that long.
Relegations and problems with the owners were unimportant to Seb provided he was there to see the love of his life.
Through the highs and the lows Seb stayed married to Charlton, with no chance that the union would end in divorce.
Even though matchdays won’t be the same without him, his spirit will live on at The Valley.
Whether through the fans, the players, or anyone associated with the club, the name Seb Lewis will resonate with anyone who enters the stadium.
He will never be forgotten and nor should he.