For the past four years former Perth Glory midfielder Mark Lee has been raising awareness as an Ambassador of DT38 and is on a mission to make sure men are aware of the risks of testicular cancer.
The retired footballer got to know Dylan Tombides and was keen to get involved with our charity to spread the word about the risks of testicular cancer, following the talented forward’s battle with the disease which ended his life in 2014, aged just 20.
Mark, 40, speaks with great passion about his involvement with DT38 down under and has attended many events to raise awareness since the earliest days of the cause.
Remembering time spent with Dylan, Mark said: ”He was a very happy young man, always smiling and he simply loved playing football.
“Dylan was well mannered, polite and respectful towards everyone and yet at a very young age you could see he had huge potential in the game.
“It makes me very proud to simply have been able to connect with Tracy and Dylan’s family to offer some support,” he revealed.
During a playing career spanning close to 15 years, Mark enjoyed spells at Scarborough, Hibernian, Swan United, Bayswater and ECU Joondalup SC before a dream move to Perth Glory where he stayed until retirement in 2009.
The UK-born Perth resident admits he had to deal with many set backs in the game and he worked tirelessly for everything he achieved in football.
“All I ever dreamed about as a child was to be a professional footballer and to achieve that dream was an amazing feeling,” he explained.
“I have had so many highlights as well as many, many challenges and times when I doubted myself.
“But when I was offered a professional contract at 17, this has to be one of the highlights.
“And another great moment for me was being named the Western Australia Player of the Year award in 2005 and then in 2006 I was offered the chance to become a professional footballer again at 27 with Perth Glory, that was amazing for me.”
Mark made his A-League debut on December 10, 2006 against Central Coast Mariners which began a three-year spell with the club.
After hanging up his boots in 2009 the father-of-two was keen to put back into the game and set up Mark Lee Football Coaching and Pro Football Training in Perth, Western Australia where he works to this day.
Both programmes have gone from strength-to-strength and offer the opportunity for thousands of children to play the game every week.
The ethos of MLFC and PFT is focused on the development of young people beyond simply playing the game.
It does support youngsters who are looking to play football to a very high level, but also offers opportunities for children to learn social skills, develop self-confidence and stay fit and healthy.
Mark said: “Coaching for me is about connecting with people and I have the chance to do this to thousands of young people each week.
“It’s about being able to use football as the vehicle to increase someone’s confidence, make a positive impact or simply put a smile on their face and that is extremely powerful.”
Playing sport is about much more than training to become a professional, as Mark explained.
“We try to simply give them confidence to be the best versions of themselves, they can be, as young people.
“If a child becomes a professional footballer or gains a career in another area of the game then that’s fantastic, however my staff and I simply hope that they will always have football or another sport in their lives for as long as possible as there are so many benefits.”
The ex-Glory star added this advice for youngsters who do have ambitions for a career in the game: “Love the game, enjoy playing and find an environment that generally cares for you and helps you to reach your potential.
“To become a footballer is one of the hardest careers in the world to achieve. It is so important that youngsters understand the importance of practice and play and at the same time and develop a strong mindset which will allow them to aim for success not just in football but all areas of their life.
“I think it’s very important that youngsters and their parents and family do not label their child as a footballer as a young age.
“Football should just be a small part of the wonderful people they all have the potential to become.”
Dylan Tombides was a rising star in English football having shown great talent for the game while playing as a child in Perth.
Having already made his debut for West Ham United in 2012 and represented Australia at under 23 level, Dylan was tipped for a great career until his life was cut short after misdiagnosis failed to detect testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer affects younger men (aged 18-35) the most, but there are also cases of the disease among boys as young as six-months-old and catching it early is vitally important to the prospect of survival.
In the UK and Australia combined around 3,300 men are diagnosed with Testicular Cancer every year and IF caught early the survival rate is around 98%.
Mark urged men to learn about testicular cancer, seek help if they have concerns and to check themselves regularly for signs of the disease as a routine.
He said: “The work of DT38 is vitally important and the role that they have played has been amazing.
“I know of many children we coach that have had the courage and awareness to detect early signs of disease and seek help, which shows real bravery. In many cases this was due to the awareness that DT38 has raised here in Western Australia.
“Simply get checked if you have any doubts or something does not feel right. It has given me courage to be more aware and I don’t hesitate to get seek medical advice because of DT38.”
To find out more about how to check yourself visit https://dt38.org/wp-content/uploads/DT38-Self-Check-Flyer_UK.pdf