Former Premier League football player Francis Benali has been made an MBE after raising a “phenomenal” £1 million for cancer victims.
Benali will receive the honour for services to cancer patients in the UK for enduring seven Ironman-distance triathlons over seven days in aid of charity Cancer Research.
The 50-year-old ex-Southampton footballer swam 2.4 miles, cycled 112 miles and ran a marathon every day for a week earlier this year.
It was the veteran footballer’s third fundraising challenge for the charity. He also completed a sponsored cycle to every Premier League and Championship stadium in 2016, and in 2014 ran to all Premier League grounds.
Benali, who is a father to two children, told the PA news agency ahead of his gruelling triathlon challenge in April that he struggled to swim and found the training “unbelievably” tough.
“The swimming has been a massive struggle,” he said.
“It has put me completely outside my comfort zone. A couple of times I’ve started to panic – I couldn’t breathe, I’d have to stop.”
He added: “Knowing the money we raise will directly fund immunotherapy research nationwide, which could have a potentially life-saving effect for a cancer patient, is hugely motivating.”
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said she was “delighted” to hear Benali has been recognised with an MBE for his “phenomenal” fundraising efforts.
She said: “The determination he showed in his quest to raise £1m while pushing his body and mind to the limit throughout three physical challenges was truly inspirational.
“The money raised will help Cancer Research UK fund vital research and improve outcomes for patients in the future.”
The fundraising effort – Benali’s IronFran Challenge – began on April 29 and saw him tour cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Bristol and London.
Benali finished his challenge by taking on Southampton’s marathon on May 5.