Two best friends whose virtual game of keepie uppie kept them together as they received treatment for cancer during lockdown have been sent video messages of support from their football idols.
Classmates Oliver Doughty and Lucas Newton are both aged 12, both live in the village of Elmswell in Suffolk and both play for Elmswell Youth FC.
They were forced into isolation before lockdown due to their cancer treatment but their fathers helped them stay in touch by filming them practising their football skills in their gardens.
Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris and Manchester City and England centre back John Stones saw clips of the two schoolboys virtually passing the ball to each other and sent them video messages in response.
Spurs fan Lucas and Man City fan Oliver, who posted their keepie uppie films online in support of Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life Home challenge, were delighted to receive the messages from their idols.
Oliver was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2018 and is halfway through a three-year treatment plan.
Lucas was recently given the all-clear after he was diagnosed with Burkitt lymphoma in 2019.
Oliver, who is currently on target to achieve 200 keepie uppies a day in his back garden, said: “It was so cool and really kind of Hugo and John to send their messages.
“It has definitely given me the motivation to keep going with my keepie uppies.
“Lucas is my best friend. We have known each other for ages, we play in the same football team and, since we both got diagnosed, we have become even closer.
“Isolation is difficult but you just have to keep busy, learn something new, like another language.
“I go into the garden and play football a lot. I’ve been practising, and it’s good to know that Lucas is also doing the same in his garden.”
Lucas’s father Scott, 41, said: “It’s amazing that the players found the time to send a message.
“It really helped the boys a lot by recognising what they had been through and what they were doing, it was a lovely lift for them both.
“We are all so very proud of them both.
“Lucas and Oliver are friends for life.
“When both boys were diagnosed with cancer it left us all in complete shock.
“For it to happen to two lads who have been best mates for years is beyond words.”
In his video message, Spurs goalkeeper and France international Lloris said: “I know you have been separated for a long time because of your illness and now the virus, but it’s fantastic that you are keeping in touch and helping others while in isolation.
“Keep up the game and hopefully we will get through this soon.”
Man City and England defender Stones said in his video message: “We have heard about your amazing efforts to stay in touch at this difficult time.
“We know how much you have been through together and it’s inspiring to see, and just how strong your relationship is.
“Stay safe, look after yourselves and keep practising your keepie uppies.”
– Race For Life Home challenge allows fundraisers to support Cancer Research UK while in lockdown. See www.raceforlife.org