Melton man fronts dementia campaign with England football team
Steve Freer (62), who is well known for his involvement in local sport over many years, was invited to Wembley for the clash with Switzerland.
He featured in a short promotional film with manager Gareth Southgate, who talked about how sufferers lose their memory of great sporting moments.
The England team, including stars such as Harry Kane, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling, played the second half without names on their shirts to illustrate how those with dementia can forget the names of their favourite players.
The Three Lions’ shirts were auctioned off after the match to raise money for the work of the Alzheimer’s Society.
Steve’s son, Lee, a Melton businessman, was amazed how prominently his father was featured in television coverage of the campaign before and during the game.
Lee told the Melton Times: “Seeing him on there was quite emotional.
“It was nice to see that TV advert with Gareth Southgate, it was really powerful.”
In the film aired on Sky Sports and online, Steve and other dementia sufferers are shown with Southgate saying: “Football should be unforgettable. Unforgettable goals, saves and moments. Unfortunately some people will forget. Fans like Steve, Shelagh and Tommy. But with a better understanding of dementia we can help all those living with it.”
Steve was invited to a meal and a seat in a hospitality box at the game, where one of the fellow guests was David Baddiel, who co-wrote the famous 1996 England Three Lions song. He also got to meet legendary striker Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final.
“That was a lifetime high for my dad with Geoff Hurst being an England hero,” said Lee.
“He is still able to remember people like him and he enjoys going to Leicester City matches still.
“The inclusion of being around the football, the game and the experience, it’s stimulating for him.”
Steve has recently had operations on his hip and knee which have helped him get about more but the two years of the Covid pandemic was a challenge for him.
Lee explained: “Lockdown has not been good for dad.
“Routine is a big thing. He’s always had a routine of going into Melton and with playing football and cricket for so many years he was forever bumping into people he knew.
“It was a trip down memory lane which helped him but he wasn’t able to do it.
“You do see the deterioration in him but people still often say that they wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with him.
“It was so nice at the weekend to see people posting on Facebook about seeing dad on the TV - there were lots of supportive and kind messages for him.”