By Connor Steel
THOUSANDS of local football supporters came together at a packed Privett Park on Sunday afternoon for a worthy cause as they raised tens of thousands for ‘Sophie’s Legacy’; a charity created to honour Stubbington youngster Sophie Fairall who tragically lost her inspiring twelve-month battle with cancer after inspiring the local community and beyond using an online social media blog.
A sell-out crowd of over 3,400 attended the home of Gosport Borough Football Club for this highly-publicised match, which saw a selection of Sophie’s friends and family take on a Portsmouth Charity Squad under beautiful afternoon sunshine as temperatures reached twenty-three degrees.
Sophie’s All Stars faced a tall order before kick-off as they faced a team of Portsmouth Legends which included cameos from Alan Knight, Brett Pitman, Svetoslav Todorov and Paul Robinson; but did seal a deserved victory in a two-one win as goals from Williams and Thomas cancelling out a goal from Aspinall.
But in truth the result didn’t matter on a day of raising funds and awareness for Sophie’s Legacy, the little details behind the event all the more poignant. One of Sophie’s favourite songs ‘Sweet Caroline’ was played around the stadium before an impeccable minutes applause on and off the pitch, whilst seventeen children with experience of cancer’s horrible impacts were made mascots for the day.
England and Manchester United legend Owen Hargreaves was also in attendance having cancelled punditry duties; the midfielder presenting the trophy to the winning team, posing for photographs, and signing autographs for hundreds of supporters of all ages or divisions; including Manchester City fans.
Signed football shirts of England heroes Wayne Rooney and David Beckham were further auctioned off on the day thanks to Tony Fisher from Waterco and Mark Wells from Blanchard Wells; a separate raffle at 4:30pm proving popular for those who stayed behind after the match had concluded.
Alongside the action on the pitch were small activities for everybody to enjoy such as a competitive penalty shootout game, bouncy castle, and photograph opportunities with the official Portsmouth FC mascot. Local food vendors and the club bar were also open with much of the profits also being donated.
It is believed that this single football match and activities helped raise between £25,000 and £35,000, with a third of this coming from online ticket sales costing £5 per person. An exact figure will be released in due course with all money going to those who are struggling with the impacts of the dreadful disease.
Sophie’s mum Charlotte Fairall told Portsmouth News in an emotional interview upon the final whistle: “It’s been unreal, I can’t quite believe we’ve pulled this off. We could have sold out three times over. So many people have been asking for tickets. We are so happy.”
She continued: “‘We want to raise a lot of money and bank it and then send it to where it needs to go. It’s really important to keep raising awareness, that’s what it’s all about. The match programme has about child cancer symptoms so everyone who has bought it will have that.”
Gosport Borough FC also thanked the fans and everybody involved who contributed to the huge event including club volunteers, a short statement on their official website saying the following:
“Everyone connected with Gosport Borough Football Club are delighted to have been able to play a small part in hosting a wonderful occasion that was all about the cause, and pay tribute to the people of Gosport who came out in their droves to show their support for Sophie’s family.
Thank you to all of todays volunteers, helpers, Sophie’s support team and club staff for an amazing day!”
Readers can find out more about Sophie’s Legacy by clicking the link here, whilst Portsmouth News photographer Alex Shute has captured on and off the pitch action of the big day that can be viewed online.
PICTURED BY ORLA STEEL: Crowds watch on as Portsmouth Legends push forward in attacking areas.