96-hour football match to raise Sick Kids funds

FRIENDS of a young football star are to mark ten years since his horrific training pitch death with a four-day, non-stop match.

Darren, Lyndsay and Dean Gowans.Picture: Toby Williams

Falkirk player Craig Gowans was electrocuted in July 2005, just two weeks into his professional contract with the club.

The 17-year-old defender was pushing a six-metre-high net designed to catch stray balls when a metal pole attached to it hit 11,000-volt overhead wires.

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Grieving family and friends set up the Craig Gowans Memorial Fund in his memory and have raised thousands of pounds for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation in Edinburgh.

Now they are preparing for their most exhausting challenge yet – an energy-sapping four-day non-stop football match, the equivalent of around 64 games played one after the other. A squad of 36 close friends and family of the talented former Stewart’s Melville College pupil have signed up for the world-record challenge 11-a-side game.

Craig’s brothers Darren, 29, and Dean, 28, with sister Lyndsay, 26, along with many of Craig’s closest pals, will take it in turns to play in what is expected to be a highly emotional game of football.

Their target is to raise at least £37,000, to reflect Craig’s number 37 Falkirk shirt. As well as scoring goals, they also plan to smash the Guinness World Record for the longest 11-a-side football match, which currently stands at 72 hours.

The players will have to play for three hours before getting a three-hour break, and organisers are now seeking an army of volunteers to help support and look after the squad night and day through the mammoth effort.

Craig’s dad John, from Blackhall in Edinburgh, said: “It’s an amazing challenge. A bit like taking part in the Tour de France in terms of what they are going to put themselves through. It’s asking a lot of them all physically. But they’re determined to do it.”

John, 54, plans to offer his support from the sidelines while the match is played at Edinburgh side Spartans’ ground. Kick-off is at 3pm on July 4, with the game finally ending four days later on July 8.

The final whistle will be particularly poignant, for that day is the actual anniversary of Craig’s death.

His brother Darren believes Craig’s memory will push the players through the pain barrier.

“Everyone taking part is close to the family and to Craig. Some of the guys are pretty fit, but most are just guys who went to school with Craig.

“The players will play for at least three hours at a time before they can earn time off to eat, freshen up and maybe grab a nap,” added Darren.

“Losing Craig was so hard that this is the first fundraiser some have felt able to take part in. It’s a huge challenge.”

Mr Gowans added: “Losing Craig was horrendous. It’s a comfort to us now to see the positive things that are being done in his name.”

Since its launch, Craig’s fund has raised around £80,000 which has helped improve facilities at Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Friend Jonny Wallace, who will be taking part in the match, said: “Each year we find ourselves driven to do things that we would never have considered before, to raise money to do great things and keep Craig’s legacy alive. We will never forget Craig or the fine example he led by.”

Rachel McKenzie, head of voluntary fundraising at the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, said: “We wish all of the players the best of luck.”

For more about the match, visit www.tcggwrm.org or www.justgiving.com/teams/worldrecord.