Football gets bad press.
And why shouldn’t it? There have been scandals galore, both on and off the pitch. From the players to the governing body there have been allegations of drug abuse, fraud, child sexual exploitation, match-fixing and so on. Football provides the media with endless headlines to sell their papers which often provoke negative emotions and responses. There is also the constant reference to players salaries. They are repeatedly judged for their financial payments against their moral worth. There is very little reference to what they have to do, and what their families have to commit to in order to receive these salaries.
When Felix was diagnosed, people knew his passion for football, so family and friends desperately reached out to the football community for help. They were welcomed with open-arms and the football community responded in a way that money could not buy.
At a local level, his team the U10s Poppies came straight to his aid. They showered Felix and the whole of Team Brown with kindness and compassion. The manager dedicated a beautiful piece about him on their website and looked forward to the time when the Poppies No 7 would return home. A local charity match for the U10s Dads was promptly arranged raising nearly £1000 for Cancer Research. Such is the spirit of grass-roots football.
Southampton Football team regularly visits Piam Brown ward at Southampton Hospital. Hours can feel like weeks in hospital and so any distraction from the four hourly obs or continuous hydration can feel like a holiday. The team bring with them an energy and optimism which is so needed by the children. They flood the ward with goodies, smiles and humour whilst the children clutch hold of the signatures and parents ensure that photos capture the happy experience. The pivotal feeling for Felix, having met the Southampton team is that they made him feel special and valued; crucial at this difficult and tough time.
The strength, love and kindness that has poured out from AFC Bournemouth is phenomenal. Behind the scenes, friends and family made sure that Eddie Howe knew the pickle that Felix was in and within a month of diagnosis he had been touch. The premiership manager gave Felix over an hour of his precious time to visit him at home and drink a cup of tea with him. A gesture that Felix could not believe, and still can’t believe to this day. Why would someone as talented and respected as Eddie come to his house to see him? A gesture that made him realise just how remarkable he was being. Then there are the players, the support staff and the team at the stadium. They have all welcomed Felix at the club, gifted him personal possessions, donated to his fundraising and taken the time to talk to him. Then there are the fans. The fans who have done everything they can to make sure that Felix stays positive and has the strength to face the challenges ahead of him. They constantly offer him comfort, motivation and humour on his blog and do all they can to make sure he goes to as many matches as he can. Fans have offered tickets and even given up the chance of VIP tickets for Team Brown to use. Everyone at Dean Court takes the time to let Felix know they are thinking of him and rooting for him – Felix loves it and it does him the world of good.
And then there are the individuals. It soon transpired that Felix’s all time hero, Yann Kermorgant also had leukaemia as a teenager and then went on to become a successful premiership footballer. Family, friends and Reading Football club pulled out all of the stops to give Felix the opportunity to speak to, and then go on to meet his hero. Yann has been instrumental in helping Felix stay positive and be strong; Yann is the only one who really has any idea what he is going through and is able to support Felix in a truly unique way. We are eternally grateful to Yann and his family for their support.
The football community at all levels have gone out of their way to make Felix feel important and special. This is what we rarely see in the press. Teams, players, managers, and fans have all gone out of their way to help Felix through this difficult time; this is more than any medicine or therapy could do. We thank you. This is the power of football.