Southampton football legend and ultra-endurance charity challenge fund-raiser, Francis Benali MBE, took time ahead of his June 25 visit to the Medina Centre, for a chat with IW Observer.
A 16-year playing career saw ‘Franny’ take part in 389 games for the Saints, many as captain. He was known for battling on regardless, including one time when he famously continued playing with a broken arm. A successful coaching career followed and he regularly appears on TV as a football pundit. Francis then starting accepting charitable fund-raising challenges, including an Ironman event, raising over £1 million for Cancer Research UK.
Francis said: “My personal journey was made possible by my mother, and I have been fortunate to have had the support of my wife of 30 years and my family, without whom I couldn’t have achieved what I have done.
“I started in junior football, before I was spotted by a scout, and I have always encouraged young people to try out sport and never give up. You should look after your body as you will have it for the rest of your life.”
Francis was awarded the MBE in the 2020 New Year Honours list, and received his award from the Princess Royal at a ceremony in St James’s Palace. Alan Shearer said of him: “Anyone wanting an example of never being beaten should look at the incredible Francis Benali.”
Looking back over this life, Francis said: “I’ve been fortunate with a career in sport, and being able to use my experience to help others – making a difference to their lives. I am looking forward to coming again to the beautiful Island.”
Tickets for the evening, which will consist of a live and unscripted interview and Q&A session on Saturday, June 25, are available on the Medina Theatre website or by ringing 823884. The event is hosted by Francis’ sons, Luke and Kenzie Benali, and the evening will be raising money for Cancer Research UK.