A retired professional footballer who suffered an on-pitch heart attack has supported a special campaign, set up in honour of a grass-roots player who died playing the game he loved.
Former Bolton Wanderers star Fabrice Muamba has donated a signed shirt to the Stephen Carey Fund and written to the committee.
Muamba, 24, collapsed in March last year during an FA Cup match at Tottenham Hotspur. His heart stopped for 78 minutes and he had to be brought back to life by medics and surgeons.
Just four months later, a similar incident happened on a grass-roots pitch in north Northumberland, when Stephen, 21, from Alnmouth, collapsed while playing for his village side.
Attempts were made to save him, both at the match and in hospital, but nothing could be done.
He had been born with an undetected heart problem.
In tribute and to try to prevent similar tragedies, a group of his friends has set up a namesake fund to provide emergency first-aid training and equipment to grass-roots football clubs, starting with the North Northumberland League, with the ambition of including all leagues in the county, at both junior and senior levels.
Now, the fund has received a huge boost, after scoring the signed shirt from Muamba.
And in a letter to the campaign committee, he has offered his ‘sincere condolences’ and said the fund is a ‘fitting tribute’ to Stephen.
Sean Henderson, the fund’s vice-chairman, said: “We are overwhelmed. To receive the shirt is testament to how far the fund has come in such a short period of time and how many people want to help. We want to raise the awareness of the fund as much as possible.”
As part of the campaign, a fund-raising five-a-side tournament was held on Sunday at Alnwick’s Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre and raised £900 for the cause.
Twenty-five teams took part on the day and grass-roots referees Richard Robson and Paul Conroy officiated the matches.
The Stephen Carey Shield was won by Simply the Best, with The Sweaters runners-up. Ray Smith was named player of the tournament. Trophies were presented by Stephen’s mum, Joy Bowman, and former Newcastle United chairman, Sir John Hall.
Sponsors included SMJ Tyres, Total Flooring, M Courty, John Robson, Blackshaws, Robert Porteous, T Henderson Transport Ltd, Outlook and Leisure Look.
A fancy dress (optional) indie night is being held at I Won’t Tell, Alnwick, on March 28, from 9pm to 2am, with music, bar games, a Harlem Shake and more. Entry, £3, to the fund.