How football is helping Kenilworth man cope after cancer's devastating effect on family

Riccardo Scimeca (left) and Carl Smith (right) have organised a charity football tournament called 'Soccer 8s' in memory of Carl's brother Daniel, who died of cancer aged 24. The money raised will be given to an individual who is battling cancer themselves.
Riccardo Scimeca (left) and Carl Smith (right) have organised a charity football tournament called 'Soccer 8s' in memory of Carl's brother Daniel, who died of cancer aged 24. The money raised will be given to an individual who is battling cancer themselves.

A Kenilworth man whose family has been devastated by cancer and who almost died from the disease himself is aiming to turn his ordeal into something positive through his love of football.

Carl Smith, 45, whose brother Daniel died from cancer aged 24, has organised a second charity football tournament along with his friend Riccardo Scimeca to raise money for a nominated individual who is battling cancer after a successful tournament last year.

Carl, who currently has cancer himself, said playing football with Riccardo and other friends once a week was a way of helping him cope with the treatment he had to go through.

Carl, who currently has cancer himself, said playing football with Riccardo and other friends once a week was a way of helping him cope with the treatment he had to go through.

The eight-a-side tournament in Daniel's memory, called ‘Soccer 8s’, will be held from 2pm on Saturday June 30 at Meadow Community Sports Centre at Kenilworth School, and will also feature a bouncy castle, face painting, a raffle and a cake sale.

The teams will then head to the Royal Oak after the tournament at around 5pm.

Carl and Riccardo are hoping lots of people come down to show their support.

Carl said: “The money will go to a young person like my brother who is going through a really tough time. I think Daniel would have loved the tournament as well.”

Daniel Smith, Carl's brother who died aged just 24. Soccer 8s was conceived in his memory.

Daniel Smith, Carl's brother who died aged just 24. Soccer 8s was conceived in his memory.

Carl was diagnosed with a complex form of cancer called a paraganglioma after having pain in his back in late 2015.

He underwent a high-risk operation to remove one of his kidneys, 60 per cent of his liver and transplant his inferior vena cava, a major blood vessel to the heart.

But surgeons found the cancer was also on the vessels to his other kidney, so the decision was made not to proceed. The surgeons then stitched him back up. Carl said: “It seemed like the end of the world to me to be honest.”

After six rounds of chemotherapy and embracing alternative medicine such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and making wholesale changes to his diet, Carl’s tumour began to shrink.

During this time, Carl’s brother Daniel, a fit and healthy 24-year-old, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer known as a sarcoma in February 2016 after feeling ill.

Despite pulling through a major operation to try and remove part of his tumour, the cancer came back and Daniel died in April 2016.

Because Daniel also had cancer, Carl went to see a geneticist to see if the family had any genes that made them more likely to get cancer.

He confirmed Carl had a mutated version of the SDHB gene, which increases the risk of getting certain types of cancer. The geneticist told him he may have passed it on to his two daughters Ellie and Lauren.

After learning this, Ellie and Lauren were screened and were found to have the gene. When the pair were scanned of tumours, doctors discovered Ellie, now 16, had a 5cm tumour on her kidney.

After an intense operation to remove it and a third of her kidney, Ellie pulled through and is now taking her GCSEs.

Carl said although it was very hard to hear Ellie had a tumour, the fact she was scanned early because she inherited the mutated SDHB gene saved her life.

He added: “You hear about young people being brave - Ellie was incredible. She made it easy for us (to cope) in all honesty.”

Even after this, cancer still continued to affect the Smith family.

Carl’s father Earl was diagnosed with cancer in early 2018, and passed away in March aged 64.

And Carl’s tumour has not gone away, meaning he has to have scans every three months. He is set to have nuclear medicine treatment in London soon.

But throughout Carl’s ordeal of his own chemotherapy and having to deal with devastating news about his family, playing football with his friends on Thursday nights helped him cope. It inspired him to organise the charity tournament in Daniel’s memory a year ago.

Carl added: “Football was part of my motivation - it was the highlight of the week for me. I’d play 10-a-side with Riccardo.

“We were on about doing something for charity, and Riccardo said: ‘Let’s do something in memory of Daniel.’”

Riccardo, a former professional footballer for Aston Villa, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, praised his friend’s outlook on life despite the difficulties he has faced.

He said: “Carl’s attitude has been incredible though this whole thing. Whenever you see him or speak to him, he’s always got a smile on his face. He treasures every single week and has a real lust for life.”

Last year’s tournament raised almost £2,000 for cancer sufferer Beth Semikin, who was then able to visit a friend in Australia.

Carl and Riccardo are hoping a similar amount is raised this time around. The individual who will receive the donated money will be named after the tournament.

If the tournament is successful, Carl and Riccardo are hoping to expand the format across the country in later years which would raise far more money.

Carl added: “It’s relatively easy to organise - we could get 30 or 40 of these going. Hopefully next year we can really go for it.”

Anyone wishing to donate should visit Carl's Just Giving page