England captain Rio Ferdinand and BBC pundit Mark Bright have thrown their support behind a national 5-a-side football competition organised by ex-England footballer and leukaemia survivor Geoff Thomas. The tournament is giving teams of friends from across England and Wales the chance to be crowned national champions - and play against the pros.
The midfielder, who won nine caps for his country, is challenging teams to launch their own bid for glory by entering a squad in the ‘Geoff Thomas National Cup’. Qualifying rounds for the charity competition will be held at ‘Powerleague’ Centres in towns and cities across the country.
The tournament is being held to raise money for the Geoff Thomas Foundation, set up by the former Crystal Palace skipper after he was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2003, less than a year after hanging up his boots. He received a life-saving stem cell transplant in 2004 and has been in remission ever since. Geoff’s Foundation is now working with the charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to make sure blood cancer patients have access to effective new treatments as quickly as possible.
England and Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand is backing the competition and gave a message of support for team captains across the country. He said: “Captaining a side through any tournament is an honour, but a huge responsibility. In the Geoff Thomas National Cup your team will look to you on and off the field. Take your players to the title, and lead them as fundraisers.”
BBC pundit Mark Bright, who played with Geoff during his Crystal Palace days, had more advice. He said: “In my experience one of the key factors in winning football matches is team spirit. Get your squad to pull together and you could have a real chance of lifting the Geoff Thomas National Cup. Whatever happens on the pitch, harness that spirit as fundraisers. Every pound you raise will help patients beat blood cancers.”
Regional heats start at Powerleague centres from Thursday 21 October, with sides battling it out to earn a place in the Grand Final in Birmingham on 21 November and the right to test themselves against a team of football legends captained by Geoff. As well as a shot at the title, finalists will be competing for great football prizes, including a ‘Wembley Experience’ - five-star hotel accommodation, a tour of the stadium and eight match tickets.
The top fundraising team will also automatically qualify for finals day, while the captain will receive tickets to the highly prestigious Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Awards Dinner.
Teams who think they’ve got what it takes to go all the way can sign up for the Geoff Thomas Cup at their local Powerleague Centre, by calling 0141 847 5583 or online at www.powerleague.co.uk/geoff-thomas . Entry costs just £28 per team - consisting of a squad of eight players aged 16 or over.