London News & Search
Survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire joined football greats and celebrities in a charity match for those affected by the blaze.
The game was played in front of a sell-out crowd at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road stadium, just a mile from the block in North Kensington.
QPR coach Les Ferdinand, who grew up near the high-rise, said: “The survivors that came on and played today said it was the best moment of their life.
“I come from this area and I know when there’s times of trouble people come together and I’m just so delighted because I know people are going home with smiles on their faces.
“To actually have that after the tragedy they’ve had means that we have done part of the journey that they need to get to.”
The former England striker said the North Kensington community was “a massive part” of his life.
He added: “It wasn’t about celebrity. It’s about the community around Grenfell.”
The stadium, which houses some 20,000, erupted in cheers as the likes of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, singer Olly Murs and former England goalkeeper David Seaman ran on to the pitch.
They were joined by Grenfell survivor Nicholas Burton, who played football with Ferdinand as a youngster.
Mr Burton, 50, who escaped from the 19th floor of the burning building, told the Press Association: “We’ve got a lot of old, tragic memories – today’s about making new ones.”
Fellow survivor Paul Menacer said being given the chance to play “means the world to me”.
QPR chairman Tony Fernandes said: “I feel very proud of what our club has put on today. Words are easy, today was about delivering something that meant something to the community.
“My highlight was the firemen and survivors coming on and seeing the response from everyone.”
Among those who took part was Homeland actor Damian Lewis, who told the Press Association: “I grew up very close to here and play football in the shadow of the tower every week and have done for 25 years.
“It’s important to let them know we haven’t forgotten.”
Comedian Jack Whitehall, who insisted on playing even with an injured arm, said: “Today was an amazing cause, a thing that everybody wanted to get involved in.
“It’s wonderful and I’m really pleased to be a part of it.”
All ticket money went to the Evening Standard’s fund for those affected by the tragedy, which claimed at least 80 lives in June.
About 2,000 complimentary tickets were given to those directly affected, including residents, relatives of the victims, volunteers and members of the emergency services.
Football presenter Chris Kamara said: “For everybody involved, it’s just a way of giving something back.
“For the club to do this for the community is amazing.”
The teams were led by former England strikers Alan Shearer and Ferdinand, whose side won 5-3 on penalties.
Ex-Manchester City and Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given said he “jumped at the chance” to play in the game.
He said: “I left my kids in the morning and, you know, some of the families have had to leave their kids in that tower.”
He added that “getting the firefighters a run out” was important given the “harrowing” scenes they had witnessed.
London News & Search