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Cuddly Castro is an internet hit

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Season ticket holder Val Moore sparked an internet sensation when photographs of her knitted Martin Castrogiovanni doll were shared on the Leicester Tigers Facebook and Twitter pages.

Val created the doll as a fifth birthday present for her granddaughter Lizzie Colclough, who is a huge Castro fan.

Lizzie’s proud mum Stephanie shared photos of the doll on Facebook and Twitter, and they were given the thumbs up by Tigers supporters, Italy rugby fans and rugby followers in general.

Val, a season ticket holder in the Goldsmiths Stand with husband Steve, says she was stunned by the response.

“Lizzie loves Castro,” she says Val. “It is partly because of Ben Herring’s Boris Baloo book, which features Castro Claws – it was like he was connected to Santa Claus.

“When she got the book Lizzie was quite taken with him, she was three-years-old and he wore the number three shirt. She would say ‘He has my number’.

“We have tickets to the 100m final at the Olympics and I was bought a knit-your-own Olympics book. I have always liked to knit and crochet bits and bobs and I was going to knit Lizzie a Usain Bolt but my daughter asked if I could do a Castro.”

Val, who works for Adey Holdings, a company run by Tigers director and former back rower Garry Adey, added: “In the first photo he had no eyes and I don’t think the hair was finished but I asked my daughter if she thought Lizzie would like it. She tweeted it to Castro and off it shot.

“I was totally surprised by the reaction to the finished version. I sent it to my daughter in the middle of the week and on the Friday night she asked if I was on Facebook.

“I went on to Official Leicester Tigers and thought ‘Oh crikey’!

“The photo was also on the Italy Rugby Federation, the Italy rugby blog and who knows where! A couple of hundred people had commented on it or shared it with their friends. About 1,300 people had ‘liked’ it on Facebook in different places.

“It was a bit staggering really. The numbers just went up and up.”

The popularity of the ‘Castro’ doll meant Val received scores of requests for her to make other versions, or for copies of the pattern. She is currently examining the possibility of making the pattern available for a contribution to the Matt Hampson Foundation and supporters can register their interest by emailing [email protected]

And when Val was joined at Welford Road by Lizzie and Stephanie at last Saturday’s Aviva Premiership Rugby game, the Castro doll came along for his first Welford Road visit.

“She was being stopped by people and asked if that was the one,” says Val. “People kept asking questions about him. The response has been brilliant.”