Ex-captain Ledley King is spurred on to make meaningful connections

Ledley King is the face of Tottenham's outreach to an ailing loyal fan in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 July, 2013, 9:05am

They have big hearts at White Hart Lane, especially when it comes to lifting spirits and helping those in need. One long-time Hong Kong resident has been profoundly affected.

Lifelong Tottenham Hotspur fan Mac McGolpin, 62, who has lived in Hong Kong for 23 years, was diagnosed last year with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and aggressive brain tumour.

McGolpin's friends, many of whom are in the local soccer community, have helped raise funds to cover his chemotherapy treatment and the supporters club in Hong Kong reached out to Tottenham during their visit to Hong Kong last week.

"THFC offered Mac access to a special area of the stadium to watch the games and meet some of the players", said Stewart Banister, chairman of the Spurs Supporters Club Hong Kong. "However Mac's current condition meant he was unable to attend either match. THFC did ask about Mac and how he's getting on."

Early this month McGolpin, who grew up near White Hart Lane and was lucky enough to see the great double-winning side of 1961, underwent a second operation to remove another tumour in his brain. He took this decision because it gave him the best possible chance to be able to attend his daughter's wedding in September.

Although he was unable to see his cherished Spurs last week, club legend and now ambassador Ledley King prepared a shirt signed by all the Spurs players. "The shirt is special because it's not out yet", said King. The shirt is for the upcoming 2013-2014 season and is not available yet in the shops. King, 32, retired last year due to a chronic knee condition that prevented him from training. A naturally talented player, he was Spurs captain and defensive kingpin who had vision and could play with both feet. He joined the club as a 14-year-old trainee and has been there ever since, making 268 appearances and winning 21 caps with the England national team.

Over the past year King has quickly taken to his new role as club ambassador.

"At the time I didn't know too much about the role, but as we've moved along it's been really enjoyable. I've got to meet a lot of great people and we do a lot of great work in the local community as well as globally. I'm enjoying my new role.

"It's great to reach out and connect with fans, who you don't get a chance to meet too often while you're playing. There's a big Spurs Supporters Club here [in Hong Kong]."

"It's great to be able to reach out to Mac. I've been able to meet some terminally ill people, spend a bit of time with them, sit in a box to watch a game with them and their families. Just to see the reaction. It makes it all worthwhile. It's just great to be in a position to be able to give back and put a smile on people's faces."

King has also put his name to a community project called Skills. Based at White Hart Lane, Skills is a comprehensive sport and education programme for underprivileged children aged 12 to 19 from in and around Tottenham.

"Having grown up myself in inner London, I can understand how difficult it can be for some kids to stay out of trouble. There's plenty of talented kids, and when I was younger, too many distractions stopped them from reaching their goal.

"So it's important that I try to provide a safe environment for these kids, where they can come and find great mentors to help bring out the best in them. Not just in sports, but also academically and in life skills," King said.

This is King's first visit to Hong Kong. And on a stroll around The Peak, he was delighted to see his jersey number. Having earlier been given a flattened and dried octopus from the Wan Chai wet market, finding the number 26 added to the surreal appeal of Hong Kong for the former Spurs captain.