Game 4 Grenfell: Survivor tells how charity football match 'helped us smile again'

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A survivor of the Grenfell Tower blaze who played in the charity football match for those affected said today that the game had helped to ease the pain for victims and put “smiles on people’s faces”.

Oluwaseun Talabi, 31, fired home from the penalty spot in front of 18,000 fans and his partner and five-year-old daughter, who just weeks previously were lucky to escape the inferno alive.

Mr Talabi was one of four former Grenfell residents to come on to a standing ovation during the #Game4Grenfell at Queens Park Rangers’ stadium, Loftus Road, on Saturday afternoon, playing alongside stars including Jose Mourinho, Damian Lewis and Sir Mo Farah. 

They came on after 80 minutes in tribute to the 80 people known to have died, and were cheered from the stands by hundreds more victims and those affected locally who were given free tickets to the match.

Grenfell residents Mr Menacer, Oluwaseun Talabi, Shahin Sadafi and Bobby Ross (Rex Features)

Mr Talabi told the Standard: “My daughter and my partner were really happy. Everyone was really happy again. I had a lot of people sending me videos of the goal I scored.

“This is like a second chance to be happy again and live our life with as much fun as possible. We can’t live our lives constantly thinking about what happened. We are trying to live our life to the best that we possibly can now.

“Everyone had fun that day. It was about easing people’s pain. It was just really nice to see all the smiles on people’s faces. It felt so good. But it wasn’t just about me, it was about all the victims. This was a second chance to be happy.”

On June 14, the night of the blaze Mr Talabi, who lived on the 14th floor, had considered strapping his daughter to his back and climbing out of the window as the fire continued to move up the building. But the sheets he tied together to form a makeshift rope did not reach the ground.

They decided to battle their way to the ground through thick smoke after firefighters found their flat and told them to run for their lives. They had waited a terrifying 90 minutes following official advice to “stay put”.

Stars pay their respects during Game4Grenfell

Mr Talabi is staying in a hotel with his partner, Rosemary, and daughter, whom he wished to remain unnamed, and hopes the game will raise awareness of the urgency of people needing to be rehoused.

He said: “When I spoke to some of the celebrities [playing in the game] they were shocked that so many people have still not been rehoused.”

More than 100 victims are said to have still not been rehoused.

Funds raised from the game — expected to be well over £200,000 — will be distributed to survivors through the London Community Foundation and the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, and towards community projects. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has promised to double the amount raised.

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