As part of our Times Christmas Appeal partnership, reporter Alex Rowe spoke to Charlton Athletic manager, Chris Powell, about the cause and the message we need football fans to listen to.
Chris Powell sees his position as Charlton Athletic manager as being about more than just delivering results, which is why he agreed to become an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK to help to deliver a vital message to black men in the UK.
In partnership with The Football League, Prostate Cancer UK has been running a “Men United v Prostate Cancer” campaign to help to make supporters aware of a disease that kills one man every hour and encourage them to be checked.
Powell’s message is aimed specifically at black men, who are particularly susceptible to the disease. The latest figures show that one in four black men will develop prostate cancer, compared with one in eight of the general male population. As one of three black managers in the top four divisions, Powell wanted to use his position to help to educate men about the dangers.
“It is a remarkable statistic and it goes to show why we are raising awareness for black men,” Powell said. “There are certain medical issues that just affect black men and if I can help someone — just one person — to go and get himself checked because he didn’t know about it before, then I will be doing my job .
“I recognise how the football club is the focal point of people’s lives. They listen to the players, they listen to the manager and I need to represent them. People do take notice of what the manager says and what he writes about.
“It is about time we started talking about it and men getting checked, because it is serious. You may feel uncomfortable about doing the test or talking about it, but you will feel more comfortable knowing you have caught it early or knowing that you are clear.
“We need to raise more awareness of prostate cancer. It has been clever to raise it in football and this is a great idea by The Times and by The Football League.”
Although men tend not to be checked for prostate cancer until they are in their fifties, Powell believes it is important to educate the teenagers he works with at Charlton and all those in the wider community of all ages.
“I have a duty of care for all my players in the squad and the youth-team squad. It doesn’t matter what colour they are, but if we are talking about young black men, then they need to know,” Powell said.
“It may be them telling a member of their family who hadn’t been in a position to get information about it. You don’t want to frighten them but you want to make them aware. As they become older and more responsible, then at least they know about it.
“When I was their age — 17, 18 — I would not have had a clue about most cancers. It is something we have to take really seriously, because we are losing a lot of people who could have been caught earlier.”
Nobby Stiles, the England World Cup winner, and Ray Clemence, the former England goalkeeper, have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It makes no allowance for a man’s fitness or health.
“You have someone like Clemence who has suffered and it is proof that no matter who you are, it can affect you,” Powell said. “I know of one or two people who have had family members pass away from prostate cancer.
“I know Ray’s son, Stephen, and it is a case of ‘can we keep this message alive now?’ Not just back it for a season. It should be an ongoing campaign.”
Clemence, the former Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005 and was successfully treated. Although the cancer returned last year, Clemence is now in remission and a keen supporter of The Football League’s partnership with Prostate Cancer UK.
“Men don’t like to think that anything is wrong with them, especially sportsmen, and if you have a slight problem ‘down there’ it will never be at the forefront of your mind that it could be cancer,” Clemence said.
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