Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

60,000 watch Petrov charity match

Stiliyan Petrov retired from football after a year-long battle with leukaemia

A host of current and former footballers, pop stars and celebrities have helped raise thousands of pounds for charity by playing in a special challenge match.

The game at Celtic Park in Glasgow was organised to raise money for a foundation set up by former player Stiliyan Petrov, who retired from the game after a year-long battle with leukaemia while he was at Barclays Premier League side Aston Villa.

The former Bulgarian international had intensive bouts of chemotherapy treatment and is now in remission. The 34-year-old has established a foundation to support people going through the same experience he faced.

A crowd of around 60,000 watched as a Celtic XI lost 5-3 to a Stiliyan Petrov XI. The fans rose to their feet during the match to applaud Petrov, who was a popular player in his time with Celtic.

At the end of the game he completed a lap of honour with his two children and thanked supporters for helping him deal with the "toughest time of my life".

Ticket sales for the game received a boost when it was announced that One Direction's Louis Tomlinson was taking part.

When the pop star came on as a substitute for the Celtic XI thousands of young fans cheered, but many of the older fans in the stadium booed. But his appearance ended prematurely when he was injured in a tackle from professional player Gabriel Agbonlahor.

As Tomlinson made his way off the pitch he appeared to take ill, but his manager for the day, Martin O'Neill, said he was okay afterwards.

O'Neill, who managed Celtic from 2000-2005, said: "Agbonlahor smashed into him and he picked himself up and then was ill in the dressing room area, but he's not too bad now I think. He had to rush off but I think he's fine, he doesn't know where he is but he's fine. He was genuinely ill but he's okay now."

Actor Martin Compston also took part and was glad he was not on the receiving end of any heavy tackles. The Celtic fan said: "I was feeling a bit rough before the game but everyone put an arm round me and I think I fared a wee bit better than the guy from One Direction by the look of it."

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