Friends and family of a fallen North East soldier will come together this weekend for a special football match in his memory.
Guardsman Michael Sweeney was just 19 when he died while serving his country with the Coldstream Guards in Afghanistan in April 2010.
But in a lasting legacy to their son, parents Kim and Michael have raised thousands for charity in his memory through annual fundraisers in their hometown of Blyth, Northumberland.
On Saturday, the pair will host the fourth annual Michael Sweeney Memorial Football Match at Blyth Spartans’ Croft Park along with the late Sergeant John Amer’s family who also hold a match on the day in memory of their son who also died in Afghanistan.
Kim, 43, said: “Michael loved football, if he could get a football when he was outside he would be away kicking it about and getting others to join in. He loved playing it and supporting Newcastle United. It’s very fitting.”
Michael’s match will see his friends from the Coldstream Guards go head-to-head with his friends from home, known as the Blyth Misfits.
The Sgt Amer Memorial Shield this year will be played between RSA Sunderland and Houghton Albion FC.
“I always look forward to it, more than anything it is to see the lads, they are like family,” said Kim.
“The regulars come up every year. They were Michael’s friends in the army and they still come up. There are some out in Afghanistan but there are some who have managed to wangle leave and are coming up when they are supposed to be resting so I am really looking forward to it.
“I am like a mother hen around them. They are all my sons now, we look after them and they look after us.”
Michael was killed in an explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on April 1, 2010. In his memory, his parents have raised more than £35,000 for the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
On Saturday, there will be another match as Kim has joined up with Blyth Battery, based at South Beach in Blyth, to help raise awareness for them and commemorate the 100th year of the First World War.
“To celebrate the the 100th anniversary since women played in place of men in football during the war they have a ladies team who will play in costume dress from that period with floppy hats and everything,” said Kim.
Former Newcastle United player Malcolm Macdonald will also be there on the day to present the cup and there will be activities for all the family as well as the football.
This is the second event the Sweeney family have organised this year in Michael’s memory after their annual fun-day in Blyth in April which raised £1,510 for the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
Money raised from the football match will be split between the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Great North Air Ambulance.
Entrance to the event on Saturday is £2 for adults and children are free as long as they are accompanied by an adult and gates will be open from 9am.