When the Childhood Cancer Foundation arranged a sport’s themed family outing, MTG United for Peace brought along some secret guests. The day, held at Tyresö Sports Centre outside of Stockholm on the 21 January, was targeted at children recovering from cancer, and their families.
The kids had the opportunity to try out a variety of sports, football amongst others, a sport we have special relationship to. Football coach and former top Swedish footballer Bo Petersson was there to help share the joy of football with the children. The two other secret guests who helped him in his quest was football juggling world champion Tomas Lundman and well known goalkeeper Rami Shaaban, who’s had a phenomenal football pro career overseas and at home in Sweden.
Every year around 300 Swedish children get diagnosed with cancer, something that changes the whole life both for the child and the family. Three out of four children survive, but the road back to recovery is long and very difficult at times. A family outing such as this is a chance for the children to forget about hardship for a while and enjoy just being playful and curious kids.
”I felt a bit nervous about meeting the children because of the traumas they must have been through. I’ve got three sons myself and as a parent I really feel for all the families. But I had nothing to fear as it turned out to be a great day for all of us! The children’s excitement and joy was unmistakable and they seemed to have a lot of fun in our company, they really liked Tomas’ magic with the ball, he was very popular,” said Rami Shaaban who got to write a lot of autographs throughout the day.
"It was a terrific afternoon! I was a bit reluctant to take the assignment in the beginning. I mean, surely the children didn’t want someone the age of Santa showing them how to play football?" said Bo Petersson with a booming laugh. Bo’s been playing football since 1966 and has had a career as a player in the highest football division in Sweden before turning to coaching. He was really happy that he agreed to take part in the end:
”It was such a fun afternoon with absolutely great atmosphere and really enthusiastic children. We hugged, laughed and played football and it felt like the time passed as quickly as it does during a coffee break.”
When a family gets struck by cancer it’s easy to feel isolated. That makes days like this one so important - to let the children experience the fellowship and fun that comes with participating in sports. Rami, Tomas and Bo taught the kids how to dribble, the right way to kick and how to free-kick on goal. It was all to give the former patients, who might have struggled to engage in recreational activities and sport due to their illnesses in the past, the opportunity to share the passion of football. The football team from MTG United for Peace also gave away toys, donated by Lekmer, something the children really appreciated. It was clear that everyone really enjoyed the sports themed outing:
”A family came up to me to say that this was the most fun they’d had for the last year and a half. It was such a joy for the parents to see their child dance, play and have fun just like any other kid!” said Monica Wessman, chairwoman of the Childhood Cancer Foundation in Stockholm.
And who knows, maybe this is the start of a new interest for the children, something that might grow into a real passion?