Victoria’s Simon Keith, one of the world’s longest-surviving transplant recipients, is playing in a celebrity soccer friendly dubbed, The Match for Life. The game will take place in Newport, South Wales Saturday, April 30th.
Lifelong friend and former competitive soccer player from Victoria, Ian Klitsie said, “I will be heading over to play against Simon on Saturday, and it will be the first time on the same pitch together in 20-plus years. I am very grateful.
According to the Simon Keith Foundation:
Professional football player and Newport County coach, Mike Flynn, is leading the professional celebrity team for the game which will take place at Rodney Parade at 17:30 p.m. He will be up against a team of organ transplant recipients led by one of the world’s longest surviving heart transplant recipients, and the first to go on to play a professional sport, Simon Keith.
Playing in South Wales has a particularly special meaning for Keith, who turned 50 in 2015. It was here that his heart donor passed away from a brain aneurysm while playing football 30 years ago, at the age of 17.
“Within me beats the heart of an incredible young Welsh athlete, whose loss of life enabled me to live mine. Since receiving this gift of life, I have dedicated my time advocating for organ donation,” says Keith who is a Canadian citizen now living in Las Vegas. “I am proud and honoured to lead this amazing team of transplant athletes and we promise to give the celebrity players and spectators a game they won’t soon forget!”
Keith’s heart donor’s best friend, Richard Parker of the Yellow Hat organization, is leading The Match for Life. After meeting three years ago, Parker and Keith became close friends, and The Match for Life – in support of organ donor awareness – was created to not only to mark this 30th anniversary milestone, but to also celebrate Wales recently changing the law on organ donation to a soft opt-out system on December 1, 2015.
“Getting to know Simon and his family these last few years, I realize what an amazing legacy has come from my best friend’s passing 30 years ago”, says Parker. “Organizing The Match for Life is my way of raising awareness of the amazing gift organ donation can give.”
While Coach Flynn gathers his team of celebrity footballers, the Transplant Sport players are already training in the hopes of being chosen for the match.
Transplant team coach Keith was born in England, raised in Victoria, BC, Canada and now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was only 21 years old and already a world-class athlete and football player when he was told that due to an aggressive virus call myocarditis, (an inflammation of the heart muscle), he had just six months to live if he didn’t get anew heart, fast.
Thanks to a referral from his Canadian cardiologist and a British passport, in July of 1986, Keith travelled to the UK where he received his new heart. Keith amazingly returned to competitive soccer just one year after his transplant, playing for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). After playing two seasons with the Rebels, Keith garnered many honors including being named the Student-Athlete of Year as well as voted as USA’s Most Courageous Athlete.
After his senior season, Keith was named the Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl and was drafted first overall into the Major Indoor Soccer League, just three years after his life saving surgery. Today, following a successful business career, Keith is the Chief Operating Office of the Nevada Organ Donor Network. He also started “The Simon Keith Foundation”, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing organ donor awareness and educating young transplant recipients on how to live life to their fullest potential.
Transplant Sport was founded in 1978 by Maurice Slapack, a consultant surgeon who brought his patients and other transplant recipients to the first Transplant Games in Portsmouth, UK. Today, Transplant Sport has grown to become the largest national charity promoting an active life following transplant surgery, and the benefits of organ donation. They organize sport and social events including the annual British Transplant Games, now a four-day event with over 800 transplant recipients aged from 2-80 competing in 20 different sports. http://www.transplantsport.org.uk
The Simon Keith Foundation is dedicated to providing financial support primarily to youth who have undergone a life-saving organ transplant who desire a return to an active and healthy lifestyle. In addition to helping people with their non-medical expenses, the Foundation strives to increase organ donor registration through public awareness campaigns. http://thesimonkeithfoundation.com