Ivan, right, with his father (left), Kassandra mayor Anastasia Chalkia (center), and the soccer ball that helped him survive a sea ordeal.

A lost soccer ball came in very handy for a North Macedonian tourist swept out to sea off a Greek beach Saturday. As Sian Elvin writes at Metro UK, a half-inflated small soccer ball that two children lost off a beach on Lemnos on June 30 would up being crucial to survival for a 30-year-old man swept into the Aegean Sea 80 miles away off the coast of Kassandra:

The holidaymaker known only as Ivan, 30, found himself in difficulty on Saturday when he became caught up in powerful currents off the coast of Myti Beach in Kassandra, Greece.

Friends worried about him going missing alerted the coastguard – but Ivan, from North Macedonia, was declared lost at sea.

But miraculously his life was saved when a child’s ball floated towards him in the ocean.

…Brothers Tryphon, 11, and Thanos, 6, had been playing with their favourite ball on Evgatis Beach, on the Greek island of Lemnos on June 30 when the sea swept it away.

But somehow sea currents pulled it 80 miles away from the island, and into Ivan’s path.

That’s a remarkable story. The origin of where the ball came from is only known thanks to the boys’ mother seeing news coverage of Ivan’s rescue (he’s shown at right in the top photo with the ball, as well as with his father and Kassandra mayor Anastasia Chalkia) and recognizing her kids’ toy. And, as per Anna Wichmann of GreekReporter.com, Ivan told media afterwards it proved crucial to his survival:

Although the ball was running out of air, Ivan was still able to use it to breathe and stay afloat while being pulled by the rough current.

Sadly, though, this story didn’t end well for everyone. Wichmann writes that Ivan only jumped into the water when he saw two of his friends struggling in the currents. One of them has since been found safely, but the other is still missing.

[Metro UK, GreekReporter.com; photo from Anastasia Chalkia on Facebook]


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.