Johnnie’s Journey: Football tournament raises over £3k for charity

Johnnie Meechan
Oceana - who won the tournament. Picture: contributed
Johnnie Meechan Oceana - who won the tournament. Picture: contributed

A FOOTBALL tournament set up in honour of a terminally-ill dad-of-five has raised over £3,000 for neuroendocrine tumour (NET) awareness.

Ten teams took part in Johnnie’s Tournament, named after Johnnie Meechan whose cancer returned last September after being in remission for 16 years – meaning medical experts have given him five years’ maximum life expectancy.

The 39-year-old, who lives in Tranent, entered his own ladies team NETtingham Forest which included his daughter Ellie, 15, who plays for one of the Hearts youth teams.

The players battled through horrendous conditions on Saturday at Lochend, then took part in a fundraising race night at Edinburgh City’s Social Club.

READ MORE: Terminally-ill father starts video blog to raise awareness of cancer fight

Johnnie hit the headlines last October when the Evening News reported he had started a video blog to raise awareness and leave a legacy behind for his children, with the initial post of him saying his condition was terminal attracting over 30,000 hits.

He has been in contact with Hibs chief executive Leeann Dempster with a view to doing an awareness day and possibly putting something on NET cancer in a match-day programme.

He said: “We had six teams, with ten players in each team – so we had 60 players turn up. The weather was brutal but they completed the tournament.

“I thought I’d do something different so I entered a ladies team – it was my ladies team versus the old men.

“There were some good players, a lot of the guys from Lochend who used to play for AVU were there and my daughter Ellie played, she’s with the Hearts youth team. It was brilliant, there was a lot of friendly banter which was good fun.

“Then after it we had a race night in Edinburgh City’s social club – they’ve been good, helping us with a venue and they gave us the use of their pitch time up at Meadowbank.”

Johnnie, who lives with wife Evelyn, 40 and children Jamie, 17, Ellie, 15, Josh, 14, Sam aged eight and two-year-old Maia, was first diagnosed in the late 90s with a malignant tumour in his knee.

The former post office worker and keen amateur footballer was initially told by his GP that he was suffering from a minor sports injury or had fluid on his knee. However, this progressed to four years of gruelling chemotherapy and major surgeries into his thigh and shin bones.

The nightmare didn’t end there though, with doctors at the time giving Johnnie no more than five years to live. Eventually, after years of pain he was given the choice of amputation, high above the right knee or more surgery with no more than a 30 per cent chance of success. He jumped at the chance of amputation.

He added: “We had a day out at Hibs, I met Leanne Dempster who I’ve been in contact with. I’m waiting to hear back from her, they’re going to get involved in getting some kind of programme together to raise awareness for NET cancer.”

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) is the umbrella term for a group of unusual cancers which develop from cells in the diffuse endocrine system. NETs can affect people of any age, and can be slow-growing or aggressive.