On the field all 11 players are equal, no matter where they come from, what they do or how much money they have.
From the man who raises £10 to the man who raises £10,000, in Raymond Ogilvie’s eyes each of the members of his Football For Cancer charity are heroes.
The 32-year-old, of Stirling Street, Buckland, could talk the hind legs off a donkey and has boundless energy and enthusiasm.
He is too modest to admit that the enormous success of the charity – which has raised £165,000 so far – is down to him. And he says it’s down to the tight-knit committee where each person has taken on important roles.
It all started in 2008 following the death of Raymond’s 15-year-old cousin Samantha Wray to osteosarcoma.
He says: ‘Seeing my family and Sam’s young friends at the funeral touched me.
‘She was so young. Around the same time my close friend Neil’s dad Roger Blake was diagnosed with cancer and passed away and Katherine Wood, a mentor who helped shape my life when I was younger, passed away from cancer at The Rowans Hospice.
‘It brought it all back up again and it made me feel really angry.
‘I found myself pacing up and down in my mum’s kitchen saying, “this is so unfair, there must be something we can do”.
‘I wasn’t saying “I’m going to cure cancer” but I couldn’t sit on my backside and do nothing.
‘I owed Neil so much through my footballing career.
‘He supported me all the way up to playing at a good level. It was all down to him. That’s when we came up with the idea for a charity football tournament.’
As well as being a telecommunications engineer Raymond is also a professional DJ at Tiger Tiger and has a large circle of friends.
It was 2008 when he put out a call for players for a charity match at Moneyfields in Copnor, and within days 50 people had signed up. Each team was named after someone who had passed away and it raised £14,000 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Raymond says: ‘We were amazed. Everyone was telling me I had to do it again. And I didn’t have a choice but say yes!’
The event, and enthusiasm of people to take part, snowballed and in 2009 there 112 players signed up and a major tournament took place at a number of clubs, raising £32,000 for The Rowans Hospice, in Purbrook.
In the years since £27,000 has been raised for the Rosemary Foundation, £38,000 for the Tom Prince Cancer Trust and £42,000 for Macmillan.
This year they are supporting Naomi House Children’s Hospice and Jack’s Place and already have £15,000 in donations.
‘The players are my heroes,’ said Raymond. ‘I came up with the idea but if it wasn’t for people reacting to it then we would not be here.
‘Off the pitch they are bricklayers, chairmen, millionaires. But once they’re on that sports pitch for 90 minutes you are all equals.
‘From one person raising £10 to the player that raises £10,000 – there is no difference to me. We have one thing in common and it is that we have all lost someone we love to cancer.’
Raymond and his team choose the charities they support carefully and once they have made that contact they remain close. Speaking about the Rosemary Foundation, the dad-of-one said: ‘It’s the most beautiful charity and provides a hospice at home service in East Hampshire.
‘The volunteers are older and absolutely lovely. From the time we make contact with the charities it takes about 14 months donate. We say to them, “we can’t do what you do but we can support you”.
‘I’m pleased to say we’re still in contact with the Rosemary Foundation. We raised enough money to keep them going for five months. I’m really proud of that.’
Raymond intends to make the charity a national organisation to bring other communities together through fighting the disease. He says: ‘It’s not only FFC that keeps me going but watching the friendships blossom between complete strangers. It is a phenomenal thing to realise.
‘We hold a team-picking night at Tiger Tiger each February and, until then, most people don’t know the other players in their team. They go on to sit side by side on the bench. I ask them all to take a moment to think of someone they have lost to cancer because that’s why we’re here.’
The FFC community extends far beyond the pitch.
Raymond attended nine funerals last year of people connected to FFC. ‘If someone in FFC loses someone I take a bouquet to show them they are not alone. We have a flag on our Facebook page which we fly at half-mast.’
FFC is a huge community effort and Raymond credits player Matt Marsh with achieving the organisation’s charity status this year.
The final of the tournament takes place on Sunday, May 4 at Fareham Town Football Club. As well as the match there is an all-day fun day starting at 10am where there will be lots of fun for the whole family.
Entry is £5 for adults and £2.50 for children. Once inside all attractions are free. For more information, or to donate, go to ffcevents.com.
LUCKILY, as firefighters, they have a head for heights.
But Craig Sadler and his team are supporting the charity Football For Cancer by climbing the brigade’s highest ladder – until they have climbed the equivalent height of Mount Everest.
Watch manager Craig will be joined by three other firefighters and four friends for the climb which will take place in Waterlooville town centre on Saturday, May 3.
They will take it in turns to scale the 45ft ladder to reach the summit of 29,000ft in a relay of 650 times.
Craig, a dad of three, said: ‘Football For Cancer is an amazing charity set up by local lads and we do something for it every year.
‘We rowed the distance of the English Channel on static rowers last year and it was a massive success.
‘We like to do stuff that’s a bit different from your average sponsored walk or silence. And this is really, really hard.
‘It’s probably going to take us about seven hours but we don’t care if it takes us all day – we’ll do it!’
Craig will be splitting all the money he raises with The Fire Fighters Charity.