This weekend, 380 football fans and legends of the game embark on a two-day pedal-pilgrimage to the Dutch capital on our Football to Amsterdam bike ride, having already raised over £450,000 so far. Here, QPR fan Brian Mooney – who is among the peloton and is pictured with his granddaughters below – tells us why the event is so important to him and what it was like meeting his hero and fellow cyclist on the event, 'Sir Les'.
Football to Amsterdam has been a brilliant experience. Since signing up, I’ve met and spoken to so many like-minded fans who’ve been incredibly supportive and put a lot of effort into making this ride a great success.
In the lead up to the ride, I also had the opportunity to do a collection with the rest of the QPR cycling team at the match v Brighton on 7 April. We got to go pitch-side at half-time with the legend that is Les Ferdinand, and all got a photo together. While I may want to forget the result of the match that evening, I’ll never forget the experience of walking out on to the pitch with my team mates and meeting one of my heroes who is supporting a cause close to my heart.
The QPR collection was particularly poignant for me because it was the two year anniversary of my operation. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer following a PSA test recommended by a work friend a couple of years ago. Thankfully it was caught early, I had my prostate removed and I cycled the Prudential Ride London four months later.
In terms of recovery, it all went as well as I could have hoped. But this is largely down to the fantastic support I had one of the Specialist Nurses at Prostate Cancer UK and my consultant.
When I was first diagnosed, I called the Specialist Nurses helpline and got through to Meg. I was in shock and looking for support and she helped me enormously. She gave me all the information I needed and reassured me through a difficult time.
The collection at Loftus Road raised over £1,000 and both home and away fans were so generous
More recently my PSA has been fluctuating, which was a bit of a concern. But thankfully, my most recent test has showed my PSA has dropped – which is a huge relief. Again, while my PSA was fluctuating, Meg and Prostate Cancer UK were a great help.
The collection at Loftus Road raised over £1,000 and both home and away fans were so generous. To do that on the two-year anniversary of my operation meant a lot, and really the whole Football to Amsterdam experience has been great in this way. It’s been a chance for me to give back.
Taking part in the ride and raising money for Prostate Cancer UK gives me a chance to help others so that in the future, other men in my predicament – in shock and looking for support – can speak to somebody like Meg, who will help them make sense of the situation.
The fact that ‘Sir Les’ and the club are getting behind the ride and charity means a lot, too. And not just QPR, it’s brilliant see a lot of the managers wearing the badge and the clubs up and down the country being really supportive – not to mention Jeff Stelling’s exploits!
If we can just get the message across to the wider population to leave behind the male stereotype of only seeing a doctor if your arm is hanging off (as the Monty Python sketch would have it) and just get yourself checked out, it will save countless lives. It saved mine.