It’s fair to say that, in the UK at least, footballers do not have a good reputation. They are stereotyped as being greedy, uneducated louts who care little about anyone other than themselves and think they are above the rules that everyone else has to live by. They often make headlines off the pitch for all the wrong reasons: arrests, kiss and tell stories, cheating on their wives or girlfriends, or for just doing something idiotic. That reputation was further enhanced earlier this week when Watford striker Troy Deeney was sentenced to 10 months in prison for affray.
However, that view of footballers is not accurate. There are many, many footballers who do a lot of good work for charitable causes and their local communities. Many of these players do this without seeking any sort of self-serving publicity or recognition for their actions, often the only way you find out about these charitable acts is when one of the beneficiaries makes it public.
One of those players is Sunderland’s Craig Gardner.
Gardner, who’s from Birmingham and used to play for both Birmingham City and Aston Villa, was recently having lunch with his family in Selfridges (a department store) in Birmingham, when his young daughter saw a two-year-old kid called Danyl Brough who was sitting with his family at a nearby table after having been to one of his appointments at Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital.
The Gardners got talking to the Brough family, and discovered that Danyl suffers from CHARGE syndrome, a rare genetic condition that often leads to a whole host of serious health problems. Danyl is deaf, can’t eat solid foods, has a weak heart and suffers from mobility problems.
When Gardner discovered that Danyl needed a special harness, sort of like a baby bouncer, that would allow him to sit up straight, he immediately offered to go to the nearest ATM and get the money out.
Danyl's mum Leanne said: "We were having lunch in Selfridges in Birmingham and Craig was sitting nearby. I didn't even know who he was at first because I don't watch football. His little girl was interested in Danyl and we got talking. He asked if there were any charities involved with Danyl's care and we said that there weren't (there are charities for this condition, but the Brough family are not receiving any financial or other kinds of support from them).
“He immediately said he was going to go to the cash point and get the money, £500 (about $780), out there and then. We had to tell him not to at least four times before he would listen...He was wonderful. He was so caring. He meant everything he said. We just feel so incredibly lucky."
Gardner exchanged contact information with the Brough family and got back in touch with them a few days later, this time not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Craig said: "We were in the restaurant and my wife and I were both extremely moved by Danyl's plight. They are such a lovely family and I thought if there was anything we could do then we should. I wish them all the best and hope the equipment will go some way to making Danyl's life a little easier."
It is hoped that the harness will allow Danyl to be able to watch his favourite cartoons in comfort.
While £500 is a pretty small amount of money, probably only a few hours pay, to a Premier League footballer like Gardner, it’s still more money than he had to give, and more money than many of his fellow footballers would have gave and it is a sum of money that meant a lot to the Brough family. Craig Gardner not only cared enough to give money to strangers to help a child, he cared enough to follow up with phone calls to the family after his initial offer of money was refused. For that he should be applauded.