Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Soccer: Small goals vital in Jordan cancer fight

Liam and Keryn Jordan. Photo / Herald on Sunday
Liam and Keryn Jordan. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Last Friday, Keryn Jordan played golf with an old football team-mate - but can't be sure when his next round might be. He'll say goodbye to son Liam this week, as he heads back to South Africa, hoping to see him again at the end of this year.

For the past 13 years, Jordan has fought a brutal battle with cancer. He has endured 12 operations - including two brain surgeries and numerous radiation courses. He has had a growth on his pancreas, spots on his lung and surgeons are unwilling to operate on his brain again, where the cancer has returned.

He realises his future is uncertain - and time might not be on his side - but refuses to dwell on it.

"I feel good," says Jordan. "Most of the time, I try not to make it an emotional thing. It's something that's there and I have to deal with it. I have to accept where I am and stay positive day by day. I'm keeping on fighting for as long as I can."

Catching up with Jordan is a humbling experience. It is hard to imagine the toll of the past few years; the operations, the assessments, the tests, the slight hopes followed by more bad news. He's been to hell and back but the 37-year-old doesn't want sympathy.

One of his immediate goals is to see Liam play at the One Nation Cup this year in Turkey. After impressing in the last edition in 2011 (he scored two goals against Werder Bremen as the Auckland side went all the way to the final), Liam, 14, will again be part of the Wynrs Academy team against club sides from across Europe and Asia. A further ambition is to make a father-and-son trip to the 2014 World Cup.

As a player, Jordan played a huge part in Auckland City's three national titles in four years (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08). He was also pivotal in their two O-League titles (2006 and 2009) and played at two Fifa Club World Cups.

"He is one of best players we have ever seen in the NZFC," says Auckland City chairman Ivan Vuksich. "He had an amazing scoring rate [76 goals in 100 games] and formed an incredible bond with our supporters."

One of Vuksich's abiding memories is Jordan's performance in the 2006 O-League final against AS Pirae. He scored two classic goals against the Tahitian champions, including a towering header where he "rose like a salmon".

If we thought Jordan was good when he was here, he was 'greased lightning' back in his native South Africa. He remains the only white player to top the goalscoring charts in the South African first division, which is seen as the top league in Africa, attracting players from across the continent. Before a major knee injury in his early 20s, Jordan, who won two caps for Bafana Bafana, was regarded as having the same potential as contemporaries like Mark Fish and Quinton Fortune, who went on to play in the Premier League.

In 1999, a sore spot on the big toe of his left foot was diagnosed as melanoma. It was cut out and he resumed playing after a few months. He was clear for the next few years but Vuksich vividly remembers the day when Jordan found out the cancer had returned.

"It was about two weeks after the Tahiti match [in 2006]," recalls Vuksich. "He came to me in tears after training and said he was going to need a major operation."

A "massive chunk" was cut out of his thigh. Three or four months later he was back on the field and went to the Club World Cup in Japan. The cancer returned further up his leg, requiring two more operations. He came back for Auckland City once again but wasn't quite the same player.

Jordan retired in 2011 but since then has played for various teams at Central, Auckland City's feeder club. Last year he turned out for Central's third team. His class was still apparent and it is hard to forget the joy on his face when he scored a last minute goal against Ellerslie to seal a 3-2 win.

"You can find peace on the football field," he said at the time. "For 90 minutes, it's just you against them, trying to find the back of the net."

Jordan is returning home to be with family and an old team-mate has offered him a job at his power tool company. Father and son are extremely close - "like peas in a pod" - and have spent the last few weeks working together at a Parnell warehouse. They catch the bus together each day, have lunch in a nearby park and spend time in the evening analysing matches from the Premier League and La Liga.

"It's been hard for him but Liam is like me," says Jordan.

According to football identities like Kevin Fallon, Brian Turner and Wynton Rufer, Liam is one of the most promising teenagers in the country. An attacking centre midfielder with an eye for a goal, last year he was the first Year 9 (third form) student to play for the MAGS 1st XI in 26 years and has consistently shone in international tournaments, like the Nike Cup.

"I've never seen a young player work so hard off the field," says Jordan of Liam. "And I think he will go a long, long way."

Jordan's brother-in-law Andy Campbell has set up a fund for Liam's future and Auckland City will run a collection during tomorrow's match against Otago, where Jordan will be farewelled by friends and family and lead out both teams.

Auckland City also plan other fundraising activities during the derby match against Waitakere on February 2.

Campbell raised $6000 toward the fund in October 2012, on top of $30,000 contributed by close friends and the Ex-Professionals Association of South Africa.

The Liam Jordan support fund ASB Bank account is 12-3150-0313700-00.

- Herald on Sunday

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf04 at 21 Dec 2014 17:14:45 Processing Time: 405ms