Sir Mo Farah will swap his running spikes for football boots to play in a charity match in aid of victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Britain’s greatest athlete joins a stellar line-up of celebrities and stars of the game, with funds raised going through London Community Foundation to the Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund before being distributed to survivors and towards community projects.
Farah will join actor Damian Lewis, singers Olly Murs, Tinie Tempah and Marcus Mumford and former footballers Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand and David Seaman in Saturday’s match.
Four-time Olympic champion Farah said he was left “heartbroken” by the tragedy and issued a rallying cry to Londoners to get behind the #Game4Grenfell match at QPR’s home ground, Loftus Road, and show “we haven’t forgotten about them”.
Farah, who grew up in Hounslow, said: “The whole world was shocked by what happened at Grenfell Tower but, as a born-and-bred Londoner, it was properly heartbreaking to see. I just hope that this match shows the community that we haven’t forgotten about them and that we will do everything we can to support the surviving victims.”
He quipped that normally he “wouldn’t be nice about a London club that isn’t Arsenal”, the team he supports, but paid tribute to QPR for aiding survivors and helping rebuild the community. After the fire in June, the club turned its ground, which is minutes from the tower, into a relief centre distributing aid. It hosted counselling sessions and provided free summer school training sessions for child survivors and others at the Westway Sports and Fitness Centre.
Farah, who won his last track race in Zurich on Thursday, said: “It’s great to see everything that QPR is doing to help. I grew up in a part of London that wasn’t posh and was quite tough at times. But sport has that power to bring people together, from all backgrounds. That’s what football is doing here. It’s great to see.”
Farah said he was at a training camp in France preparing for the World Athletics Championships when the fire broke out. “I remember seeing the footage on the news and not believing what I was seeing. It was like it was a disaster movie, just shocking. I think every father would see something like that and just think, ‘What if that was my family?’ Everyone is thinking the same thing — this can never be allowed to happen again.”
With refugees among the victims and survivors, he said the fire made him think of when he came to Britain aged eight after fleeing war-torn Somalia to join his father. He said: “It is not what should happen when people come to the UK for a safe haven. As a Londoner, and someone with a family, it did make it so hard to see what happened.
“People have come together to help the community to recover and that’s what this match is all about.”
He said the fact that 180 households left homeless were still in hotels 10 weeks on was “concerning”. “The situation may be complicated, but we need to support the victims and help them get their lives back on track as soon as possible. New and fair housing is the first step.” More than 2,000 complimentary tickets will be given to those directly affected by the fire, including families, the emergency services, volunteers, residents and others who helped with recovery efforts.
Tickets for #Game4Grenfell, which kicks off at 3pm on Saturday, are £15 for adults, £5 for concessions. To buy, call the QPR box office on 08444 777 007 or visit game4grenfell.com, where you can also donate. The match will be aired exclusively on Sky 1 and Pick.