Farewell Liam, little champion

By NICOLA BOYES

Jellybeans all the colours of the rainbow lay on Liam Cooper's coffin.

One by one his mates from the Tokoroa Hotshots soccer team walked forward and placed them there.

His friend Nathan Belfield said "L" was for Liam and his love of soccer.

"I" was for his inspiration on and off the field, "A" for an awesome team member, and "M" was for the memories and all the magic jellybeans the 8-year-old could eat.

More than 300 people gathered yesterday to farewell the soccer-mad boy, killed two weeks ago in a horrific crash which has left his father Mark and family friend Rowan Pringle still in Waikato Hospital.

The crowd heard about a little boy who touched the hearts of everyone he met and who loved soccer.

His little white casket lay in the front of Tokoroa's Apostolic Church, a shiny new soccer ball sitting on top.

On the funeral programme Liam's face smiles from its pages with a short poem hinting at the family's anger over his death.

It refers to the driver of the Holden which allegedly sped up into the back of the car driven by Mr Pringle, with Liam's father Mark in the front passenger seat and Liam in the back seat, on May 14.

The driver, Pehi Rangi, who was in the care of Lakes Mental Health Services and for whom police had been searching, has been charged with the boy's manslaughter.

A statement from Liam's family says questions need to be answered by the system that is supposed to keep all our families safe.

Family friend Eamon McGinty said he did not remember Liam for his soccer, but for his love of the Wiggles and their song Fruit Salad, which used to drive him mad.

"Every time I look at a piece of fruit I will think of Liam," he said before telling him never to sing the song again.

A letter read from Liam's mother, Simone, and father Mark - who is still sedated in hospital and could not be at the funeral - said it was not fair they could not share any more special moments with their son, named Liam after Liam Brady the famous Arsenal soccer player.

His middle name, Attrayu, was after the boy warrior in The Never Ending Story.

A letter from Liam's classmates in room seven at Tokoroa North School talked of their friend who loved Goosebumps books and maths, floating in the school pool on his back and playing soccer.

"We wish we could have one more day with you. We will miss you and will never forget you."

His Hotshots soccer team formed a guard of honour as his coffin was carried from the church, lining up beside the hearse before leaving their jellybeans on his casket. His grandmother, June Cooper, told the service Liam had told her days before his death that he had decided to be a famous soccer player.

"Liam, you are a famous soccer player, not the way that I had intended nor the way gramps and I would have had it, but Liam you are a famous soccer player," she said.

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