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Ex-Premiership football star riding 120km a day for charity

Southampton legend Francis Benali back in the saddle, visiting 44 club grounds

Former Southampton footballer Francis Benali plans to run a marathon and ride a bike more than 120 kilometres every day for the next fortnight to raise money for the charity Cancer Research UK.

The 47-year-old, who made more than 300 appearances for the South Coast club, scoring one goal, set off on his journey yesterday morning from AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

He will finish his fundraising trip at the St Mary's stadium of Southampton FC, Benali's home town club where he spent almost all his career.

He set off from Bournemouth yesterday on the first leg of the challenge to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Benali’s route will take him into south Wales to tick off Cardiff City and Swansea City, then through the Midlands to the north west of England before heading down the east coast and Yorkshire then through East Anglia and London to the finish in Hampshire.

He admitted that he felt "nervous and apprehensive” at the prospect of running and cycling 1,600 kilometres, but insisted, “I'm ready.”

“It'll be good to get the first day out of the way and hopefully the legs won't be too tired at the end

"I am a bit nervous because I know the pain that lies ahead. I just want to get it completed and make it a success.

"The disease has not gone away and the charity still need funds as desperately as ever so that will be my motivation through the pain of this challenge."

The former defender undertook a similar challenge two years ago when he ran between all 20 Premier League stadiums within three weeks and raised more than a quarter of a million pounds for Cancer Research UK, his efforts winning him the inaugural Spirit of the Game award that year.


Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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