An Interview With Geoff ThomasPosted on: 30 April 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
There's more to Geoff Thomas than football stats.
Captain of Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup final against Manchester United, nine caps for England, over 550 career appearances and more than 80 career goals – but there’s more to Geoff Thomas than just football stats.
After an outstanding 20-year playing career that spanned all four divisions and a year in retirement, in June 2003 the footballing world was shocked when Thomas revealed he had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia.
In his heyday Geoff was known for his passion and determination on the football field; a natural born leader, on hearing the news, he refused to be beaten.
After a trip to the doctors to find the source of a stomach bug, Geoff’s life was turned upside down as he faced the biggest challenge of his life.
“Nothing can quite prepare you for news like that," he says.
“It really does put everything in perspective, but I’m not a man who’ll simply lie down and take it. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to beat it.”
“As a player I used to believe that if I gave everything I could; blood, sweat and tears it might make a difference. If I put my body on the line for the team; scrapped, fought for every ball and put all I had into a football match, I’d get a bit of luck or I’d be rewarded. So I just wanted to do everything in my power to beat the cancer and live as long as I could.”
Five years on and Geoff’s fighting spirit is still on show.
After undergoing a bone marrow transplant in January 2004, he is now in remission and showing typical Thomas-like grit and determination to raise money for leukaemia charities.
“Football gave me what I wanted. It gave me some fantastic memories. I had amazing highs but also some pretty bad lows. But I’m not all about football. I enjoy a whole range of sports and want to contribute as much as possible.”
In 2005 Geoff won the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year- “Helen Rollason Award” in recognition for a truly astonishing achievement.
“Captaining Palace in the FA Cup final was great but we lost in the replay, so the cycle is without doubt my biggest sporting accomplishment.”
Geoff, along with five other cancer survivors and footballing pal Ian Wright began the almighty challenge of cycling the Tour de France route.
That 3,600 kilometre, uphill race of endurance for the superfit which is described as the equivalent of running twenty-one consecutive daily marathons, was completed to raise as much money as possible to fund trials, treatments and therapies which are saving lives of leukaemia and other cancer sufferers.
Geoff raised over £150,000 for the Leukaemia Research charity for the exhausting 21 day challenge.
“I’ve never been so tired. It’s quite literally muscle-crunching. It’s something I’m very proud of but the most important thing was raising the money, because that’s what I’m here for.”
On April 6, 2007, the players from the 1990 FA Cup final all took part in a re-run of the match, in aid of Leukaemia Research at Selhurst Park and in March 2007, a “Geoff Thomas Foundation Charity XI” took on a team of celebrities in the first ever match at the new Wembley Stadium all with the sole aim of raising money for charity.
“I’ve been lucky. Some other people aren’t so lucky.”
“I know a lot of people who have lost someone close to them at sometime through cancer, and although I can’t stop the disease on my own, I’m trying to make people aware of it, aware of what we’re trying to achieve and hopefully we can fund treatments. I wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t helping to save lives.”
Geoff has already established the Geoff Thomas Foundation (GFT), a charity to raise funds for the treatment of cancer. He has even announced his intention to ride the Tour de France route again “at some stage in the future”.
The fascinating story of Geoff Thomas is far from over, and 2008 promises to be another incredible year.
Last month he completed his first London Marathon in a time of 4 hours 28 minutes, and he will be part of the GTF team in the London to Paris bike ride in June. A charity football match recently took place at Maidenhead United and there are plans ahead to stage various golf days.
His football career is still fresh in the minds of the many fans who voted him in the Crystal Palace Centenary XI, but for now Geoff is concentrating on the future.
“I obviously really appreciate the kind comments, but I finished playing football a while ago; this is what I’m here to do now.”
About the Geoff Thomas Foundation
The advances in medical science, which made Geoff’s bone marrow transplant possible, have offered him a realistic hope of cure, but not everyone is so lucky. The Geoff Thomas Foundation funds the development and delivery of new treatments for patients with cancer and leukaemia across the country, by working with top consultants at five leading centres across the country to identify what they need to make things happen, whether it be funding nurses, research assistants or specific equipment.
For further information or to make a donation visit the Geoff Thomas Foundation at www.geoffthomasfoundation.com.
By Mark O'Haire
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