Twenty corporate teams battled it out for the chance to be crowned 2023 Copa Del Cure Leukaemia champions and live out their dreams as a professional footballer at the home of English football, St George’s Park last week.

Hosted on the day by Sky Sports Johnny Phillips and sports broadcaster Bianca Westwood, over 190 players graced the pitches at St George’s Park alongside a host of former legends as stellar range of former fan favourites including Marlon Harewood, Matt Le Tissier, Darren Ambrose, Clinton Morrison, Lee Hendrie, Jérémie Aliadière, Darren Ambrose 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 Tottenham and England legend Glenn Hoddle at the on-site Hilton Hotel.

Companies and clients from across the UK entered the tournament including the likes of Deutsche Bank, LDC, WorldPay, Clearwater International, KPMG, PWC and Booths amongst others.

The teams were reminded on the day exactly why the charity continues to fund Research Nurses across the country as we look to put an end to blood cancer. One of the teams taking part, Willow FC, were doing so after little Willow was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) at just three years of age. Brave Willow was there on the day to cheer on her Dad and the team and we loved meeting the inspiring young lady who didn’t stop smiling all day for the first time.

Former patient Thomas Ashley was also in attendance on the day as he looked to continue his blog detailing his own journey through blood cancer. We have been working alongside Thomas to help publish his blog every week, and you can read about his brutal journey here.

The Final was a close knit affair with Jérémie Aliadière’s Clearwater International team taking home the trophy as they defeated a Marlon Harewood-inspired team from LDC in a tight final game.

Sky Sports Pundit Clinton Morrison received his first call up for the tournament in 2023, but was blown away by the organisation and standard of the competition.

I am usually a bit of a trouble maker alongside Lee Hendrie, but it is important to understand why we are here today. It is a special cause that is close to my heart and I was so happy when the charity contacted me to get involved today. It’s obviously my year playing, but I would love to come back every year now!”

“It was been difficult over the years to see the likes of Stan (Petrov) and Carl (Ikeme) battle blood cancer. When you have spent years competing against them on the pitch and hear that they are dealing with blood cancer, and people always think – are you going to survive – and we thank god that they have survived, so we need to keep knocking down doors until we hopefully find a cure for blood cancer soon enough.”

Matt Le Tissier was making his third Copa del Cure Leukaemia appearance and was delighted to be asked back to take part.

It is just a fantastic day. The venue is pretty special (St George’s Park) and it is always a nice day out. The cause is brilliant in Cure Leukaemia – what better charity could you look to raise money for who looking to help patients of all ages with blood cancer.”

“There’s always a bit of rivalry between the former pros but we have all chilled out as we have grown up (apart from Lee Hendrie perhaps haha) but it is great to reunite to help football play it’s part in finding a cure for blood cancer.”

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 Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle as he spoke fondly about his playing career and making the transition into the dugout which saw him rise through the ranks up to manage the national team.

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.

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