Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Soccer: Jordan defies cancer prognosis to help son follow in his bootsteps

Cancer fighter Keryn Jordan with his old Auckland City playing jersey (left) and son Liam's on the right.  Photo / Brett Phibbs
Cancer fighter Keryn Jordan with his old Auckland City playing jersey (left) and son Liam's on the right. Photo / Brett Phibbs

During six amazing seasons, Keryn Jordan was a striker beyond compare in New Zealand soccer.

The South African was lured to New Zealand in 2004 by the shambolic Knights A-league franchise and when that didn't turn out well, he found a home in domestic soccer with national league powerhouses Waitakere United, for one year, and then Auckland City.

His 76 goals in 100 games for those clubs is a staggering ratio by any standards.

Two years on from retirement, the 36-year-old is locked in a battle with cancer that started as a melanoma spot and has spread to his brain. He says doctors are amazed he is still alive.

There are few outwards signs of the nightmare Jordan, his wife Sherry and 14-year-old son Liam have endured, apart from a surgical scar on his head.

The reality is very different.

What started as an annoying mark underneath the big toe of his left foot 13 years ago has become a life and death battle, requiring 11 operations including two brain surgeries since early last year.

The surgeon is opposed to operating again on two new brain lesions, there is a longstanding but stable lung spot and a new growth on the pancreas. His lower right leg is constantly numb, and his memory affected.

There have been frightening seizures, involuntary twitches, radiation courses, and the hell and back ride each new assessment brings which he says "drains my emotional soul".

Jordan's sister and her husband, Lezanne and Andy Campbell from Dunedin, have started a future support fund for Liam - a top soccer prospect - which is a reason why Jordan is publicly detailing his deterioration. The fund activities include a Dunedin golf day, with cricket stars Brendon and Nathan McCullum among the prize donors.

Jordan also wants to reach out to cancer organisations he could assist, while recognising a need to connect others in his position.

"In my mind I've tried to remain un-sick - whether that is good or silly, who knows? But it is at a point where I do need to see someone and I know the Cancer Society have very good programmes," he says at his North Shore home.

"But I don't want to make it sound like I have given up hope, or this is a pity thing - that's not how I am. I will keep fighting to the very end, whether it be a year, five years, or 10 years.

"It is very humbling when you see the family initiatives, especially when they are thinking of Liam and his future."

In a terror-filled incident for Keryn and Sherry this year, the right side of his body froze and contorted as they lay in bed, rendering him unconscious. A similar although less severe attack followed. He needs a daily dose of anti-epileptic medication.

"The fear is there now whereas there wasn't so much when it was isolated in the leg," he says.

"With the brain, you definitely get a sense of fear, that fear of the unknown. It is very taxing. I want surgery so I don't walk around thinking 'how big are they growing' all the time."

The stoic Jordan has negotiated the toughest times by being highly organised. Banned from driving after brain surgery and unable to walk far anymore, he searched out an office-bound sales job and takes the bus to work.

His love of soccer never wanes. Jordan attempted a comeback with Central this year, but was hit by attacks of numbness. He is planning a junior invitation team tour to South Africa and his only "bucket-list" item is going to Brazil with Liam for the 2014 World Cup finals.

Jordan's career at Auckland City included two world club championship campaigns, two O-league and three national league titles, two Golden Boots and wonderful memories.

"The best season was my first at Auckland City under Allan Jones - the team spirit was second to none," says Jordan, whose career was curtailed by knee injuries.

"The way we battled even when we weren't playing well - someone always stepped up and got the boys motivated.

"That club loves its own and I feel as though I am a son of all the oldies and members. They always give me words of encouragement when I go down there. The joy the fans might have got watching me play was nothing compared to the joy I got playing for them."

When he retired, Auckland City chairman Ivan Vuksich described Jordan as "one in a million".

"How do you replace a Keryn Jordan - you can't. He will always hold a very special place in our hearts," Vuksich said.

Like father, like son. Liam is the first Year 9 student in the first XI at Mt Albert Grammar - a soccer stronghold under Kevin Fallon - and is a highly rated member of Wynton Rufer's soccer school.

Jordan says: "I feel Liam's future will be in sport but I've always promoted a balance with education. With people's generosity, Liam will be able to make a real future for himself."

The Liam Jordan Support Fund's ASB account is 12-3150-0313700-00.

- NZ Herald

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