Sunday league club SE Dons have linked up with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan for a one-off game and limited-edition kit aimed at encouraging more to join the stem cell register
Image: © Max Lacome, maxlacome.com. SE Dons.)
Sunday League football club SE Dons have partnered with blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, launching a drive for fans and community members to join the stem cell register
The club, launched by grime artist Don Strapzy, has seen a number of former football league stars join its ranks over the years. Former Arsenal youngster Zak Ansah and ex-Barnsley winger Jordan Green are among that number, and the Dons have been using their profile to attempt to make a difference off the pitch.
For their June match against fellow London side ShoTime FC, they’ll be changing their name to ‘SE Donates’. It’s part of a campaign targeting a demographic urgently needed on the stem cell register – men aged between 16 and 18. Male donors aged 16-30 currently make up just 18% of the stem cell register, and those at the younger end of the scale are being encouraged to join the register wherever they are.
“We’re quite fortunate we’ve got a following from all ages, but the younger generation is always more impressionable,” Don Strapzy tells Mirror Football. “Because we’re well-known within our community, it’s good when they see people like ourselves who some people might label as from the streets and putting a negative light on it… it’s good for those young boys and young girls to see us grow and do something really positive.
“We’ve always run an anti-knife campaign at the club. I’m boxing in July, and the whole point of it is because we’ve been running the anti-knife campaign it’s me saying ‘I’m 31, I’m getting in the ring, let’s put the weapons down’.
“At the end of the day we’re in the spotlight, we are who we are, we’re not angels. But we try our best, we know right from wrong and we understand the influence that we have. With everything that’s going on in some of our communities we really want to show that positive light.”
© Max Lacome, maxlacome.com. SE Dons.)
It’s not the first campaign SE Dons have involved themselves in. They established their ‘SE Dons XI’ team shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing those who have “been there from the start” to continue to represent the club, and the XI side has taken part in matches to raise more than £50,000 for charities including Prostate Cancer UK, the Bradley Lowery Foundation and Rockinghorse Children’s Charity.
The Anthony Nolan partnership is going beyond a single game, though. Don Strapzy is one of several SE Dons members to add their name to the stem cell register, and those in attendance at the game on June 5 will have the opportunity to do the same in person as part of a ‘Match for a Match’ campaign.
“I have [already joined], G has, the goalkeeper, so has Zak Ansah,” he says. “And we’re encouraging the boys to do it so I’m sure there will be quite a few of us.
“Just the whole point is trying to join the stem cell register, and you don’t have to be in south east London to do that. That’s the whole point, more so than the people who turn up to the game, though obviously that will make for a great event.”
© Max Lacome, maxlacome.com. SE Dons.)
The effort has been accompanied by a limited edition SE Dons x Anthony Nolan kit, with proceeds going towards the charity.
“The whole message is we’re encouraging young men to join the stem cell register and let them know you can do this all over the UK – that’s the main goal for us, behind this game. We’re really behind it, we’re doing all that we can with our platform alongside Anthony Nolan to make it a success.
“Not everyone knows about it, not everyone understands what stem cells are, so this is us raising awareness and getting people to start questioning ‘can I help’ and ‘can I get involved’ – and of course you can, it’s very simple, it’s very easy.”
The ‘Match for a Match’ on June 5 will kick off at 11am, at Bromley FC’s Hayes Lane ground. More information on the game, and how to attend, can be found here .
“The UK’s existing stem cell register needs to urgently grow,” an Anthony Nolan spokesperson said. “The younger the pool of donors, the more likely a match will be found, and the more effective treatment can be for patients, therefore many more young people are needed to join the register. Once signed up, there is a 1 in 800 chance of being asked to donate in the next five years – so if you’re named in the squad, you won’t necessarily make it on to the pitch.
“We were incredibly inspired by SE Dons ‘Anything’ mantra and the support and devotion they provide for their teammates, fans and wider family. We knew they were the perfect partner for Anthony Nolan, helping to drive that support and create action for our stem cell donor register.”