New Year's Honours 2020: Southampton FC's Francis Benali transcends football rivalry after mammoth fundraiser
THOUGH Portsmouth and Southampton are two cities fiercely divided by football, there can be no doubt that former Southampton captain Francis Benali has had a positive impact on both cities.
His work as a volunteer and ambassador for Cancer Research UK saw him raise £1m for the charity after completing five Ironman triathlons in one week.
Benali swam 12 miles, ran five marathons and cycled almost 61,000 miles on his journey from Manchester to Southampton, and is thought to be one of the oldest people to complete such a challenge.
He is now to be awarded an MBE for his efforts.
He said: 'Cancer knows no boundaries and affects so many of our lives – it really transcends any footballing rivalry.
'There were some huge Pompey fans who donated to the fundraiser and that meant a lot.
'The letter was a complete surprise and I’m very honoured.’
The fundraiser tested his body to the absolute limit, even putting him in hospital at one stage.
Benali hopes to take on another fundraising challenge in the near future, but for now is letting his mind and body rest.
‘With previous challenges it felt like there was an element of unfinished business,’ he said.
‘So I'm glad to have raised £1m for Cancer Research and would like to continue supporting good causes, but this challenge was pretty brutal, I must admit.’
Benali, now 50, made 311 appearances for Southampton between 1988 and 2004.