Saturday October 28, 2006
Shearerís the best, says Blair
NEWCASTLE: British Prime Minister Tony Blair paid handsome tribute to Alan Shearer here on Thursday as the former England and Newcastle striker handed over the proceeds of his testimonial fund to charity.
Blair was on Tyneside as 36-year-old Shearer donated the £1.64mil raised when he retired to 14 local charities.
We would all like to play football like someone, but this guy was just the best, wasnt he? said Blair.
Its a tremendous honour for me to come along and participate in what is an act of generosity from a man who is remarkable.
The pressures and the rewards of being at the top of professional football today are tremendous, but not everyone puts something back in. But he has.
When you have that type of reputation in a city, people do look up to you. Theres a certain responsibility and I have never really had the chance to say this publicly before, but it was not just as a player that he earned peoples respect.
People who have become famous and well known, it's not always the case that they take on the responsibility that comes with that reputation. But he has done it so I am absolutely thrilled to be here.
The main benefactors of the testimonial fund are the Nordoff Robbins music therapy charity, who have received £608,000 (US$1.1mil).
Shearer, who retired at the end of last season having scored 206 goals in 404 appearances for Newcastle, was delighted at the total and that he had been able to put something back into his local community.
He said: I was lucky enough to live my dream, to play football and get paid for it. There are not many people in the world who look forward to getting up in the morning, and being paid an unbelievable amount of money for doing so.
I was one of them, so for me to have taken the money would not have been right.
It was an easy decision to give it to the charities: the difficult part was deciding which charities to give it to.
We literally had hundreds writing and asking, but we decided on the 14 and I apologise to all the people that unfortunately did not get anything.
But the 14 that did, I know they are very, very grateful.
The cash was raised during a series of events leading up to Shearers emotional testimonial game against Celtic in May. A crowd of more than 52,000 packed into St James Park to salute a stunning career which ended with a decade of loyal service on Tyneside a few weeks prematurely as the result of a knee injury picked up in his final game, perhaps fittingly a 4-1 derby victory at Sunderland in April.
Shearer walked away from the game a hero, but it was he who was grateful to fans for their generosity.
He said: I am just delighted. I have said a tremendous thank you to everyone, but the main thank you has to go to all the people who have paid their money for the dinners, but also for the game.
That was just unbelievable and will live with me for ever.
They are the ones who have paid their money, they are the ones who have made it happen and I am delighted that so many people can benefit from that. AFP