Brave dads of children who died or are seriously ill form charity five-a-side squad for Ty Hafan
SIX dads have set up Britain’s bravest football team - at the hospital which cared for their terminally-ill children.
Three of the tragic fathers have already lost their children while the other three dad's youngsters are battling life-threatening illnesses.
The dads set up their five-a-side team to help cope with the stress of seeing their little boys and girls at death's door.
And their team will also raise funds for the charity-run hospice which cares for hundreds of young children.
The six - five players and a substitute - have all had children cared for at the Ty Hafan Children's Hospice in Sully, near Cardiff.
Gary Footman, 37, from Pontarddulais, said the team wass giving him a chance to give something back after his little girl Evie died aged five months in January
He said: "We very unexpectedly had a second daughter, Evie, on the bathroom floor and when the ambulance came they realised there were complications.
"Evie had gastrointestinal disease necrotizing enterocolitis and things weren’t going to get better, so someone suggested Ty Hafan to us.
"It’s just the little things that make a big difference - we didn't have to worry about cooking, or getting a babysitter for our other daughter Megan.
"It’s such a lovely place - it just made life so much easier for us.
"They gave us so much help after Evie passed away too, they don’t just forget about you."
Dad Anthony Hard, 33, whose son Casey, two, has severe brain damage, said: "We are all in the same boat and football has brought us together.
"We're quite competitive but I don't think there will be any nasty tackles or injury - we're all there for the same reason.
"It's a great way for us dads who are in a terrible situation to bond and to talk about what we are going through.
"And it's a chance for us to thank the hospice which doesn't just care for our children - they look after our families as well.
"I'm looking forward to seeing all the mums and kids on the side line cheering us on. That's what it's all about.
"Fun time together is so important and the hospice means a lot to us all."
Casey was born with extensive brain damage following complications at birth and is being treated for cerebral palsey, epilepsy, spasms, and cortical visual impairment.
Keen footballer Anthony, of Newport, said the five-a-side tournament would provide welcome relief for all the families involved.
And they will put a smile on everyone's faces because all the players will be wearing huge It's a Knockout-style plastic bubbles for the charity event.
Team goalie Jeff Griffiths, 45, whose daughter Melanie, 16, died from a progressive cell damage illness, said: "The staff were brilliant with Melanie and I really wanted to give something back.
"The dads taking part in bubble football can’t wait. It looks like good fun and I’m sure we’ll have a great time."
The other team members are Angelo Pucella whose son Luca, six, suffers from incurable hypothalmic dysfunction, Andrew Davies, whose son Jordan, 20, has retractable epilepsy and Hywel Tyler who lost his son Noah two years ago after he was born with severe brain damage.
Ty Hafan, whose patron is Prince Charles, has helped more than 550 families since opening in 1999.
Hospice worker Paul Fisher, who runs the dads’ group at Ty Hafan, said: "Fathers often do not respond to formal meetings so informal social activities like football are brilliant.
"All the players share a strong common bond and are able to talk about their experiences in caring for their life-limited children with each other.
"That is a huge benefit."
The charity event hopes to raise £8,000 for the hospice on November 10th at Cardiff City House of Sport.