Candid With Cancer #8 – My Second Cancer Diagnosis
Thomas Ashley details his battle against AML as part of a new weekly blog
Hosted on the day by Sky Sports Johnny Phillips and BBC Sport, BT Sport and Wimbledon Presenter Kenzie Benali, over 200 players (including five female players) graced the pitches at St George’s Park alongside a host of former legends with our first ever female ex-pro featuring as former England midfielder Sue Smith joined a stellar range of former fan favourites including “The Beast” Adebayo Akinfenwa, Marlon Harewood, Jamie O’Hara, Ian Harte, Darron Gibson, Stephen Hunt and Franny Benali MBE.
Teams took advantage of the opportunity to live like professionals for a day, featuring in matches on the FIFA-approved 3G pitch and then enjoying an evening dinner with former Liverpool and England legend John Barnes MBE at the on-site Hilton Hotel.
Companies and clients from across the UK entered the tournament including the likes of Deutsche Bank, LDC, OGL, Apna England, KPMG, Form Financial, PWC, Booths amongst others.
The Final went all the way to penalties with Apna England taking home the trophy as they defeated an Adebayo Akinfenwa-inspired team from LDC on penalties – with a cheeky panenka even pulled out of the bag in the shootout – talk about nerves of steel!
Sky Sport’s Sue Smith made her Copa Del CL debut and loved her time on the pitch but couldn’t help her Booths team to glory.
“It has been absolutely brilliant! I wasn’t expecting the standard to be so high (haha). Everyone is here for a great cause and hopefully we will raise a lot of money!”
“As soon as I was offered the opportunity to take part and come down to St George’s Park and be the first female, I was honoured! All of the pros that I have spoken to that have taken part previously, all want to come back!”
Another Copa Del CL debutant, Jamie O’Hara has been personally affected by blood cancer after losing his Mum in his teenage years.
“It has been amazing, it really has. The organisation first and foremost has been excellent. The standard of football has been fantastic but my body is certainly feeling it now. I certainly want to be a part of this every year now. I take part in a lot of charity matches but this is certainly up there with one of the best!
“I have been through it before as I lost my Mum to blood cancer and that was nearly 20 years ago. From when I lost her to where we are now, is incredible, and this is only possible from fundraising for charities such as Cure Leukaemia.”
Alongside the tournament there were plenty of additional elements to the event to add to the fun including a Speed Gun challenge to see who could strike a ball the fastest and a favourite of current professional players – Teqball tables (a football form of table tennis).
Players were able to kick back in the evening and listen to former England and Liverpool legend John Barnes as he spoke fondly about his career and had the room in stitches at times with hilarious memories about his storied career……..and THAT rap!
All the proceeds from the Copa Del Cure Leukaemia are donated directly to Cure Leukaemia, and the ongoing battle to eradicate all forms of blood cancer, a disease which has affected many players and their families within football in recent years – most recently including the Tottenham Fitness Coach, Gian Piero Ventrone, who sadly passed away from a short battle with leukaemia aged 61.