For some, Graeme Souness is a Liverpool icon. For others, he’s the man behind the moustache that planted a Galatasaray flag in the middle of Fenerbahce’s centre-circle. Younger viewers may simply know him as the pundit that took a particular dislike to Paul Pogba.
All three of these things are true, but Souness has also proved himself to be, throughout his career, a stand-up guy with a heart of gold. His latest challenge proves that point more than ever as having stepped away from his role at Sky Sports, he is swimming the English Channel to raise money for a rare skin condition charity.
He’s 70 years old, yet the Scottish great just keeps on getting better and better. He stepped away from his punditry role with grace and is now working towards something completely selfless. His motivation for the swim, which is expected to take 16 hours, came after he met Isla Grist.
The 14-year-old has Dystrophic Recessive Epidermolysis Bullosa, which causes skin to blister at just a touch. It's a little-known condition that has sparked Souness into action. He told BBC Breakfast: "She's just unbelievably courageous, brave and strong. It is just the most horrendous disease and if you are affected by it you must wake up every morning and think, why me?"
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He’ll swim the channel alongside Isla’s father Andy in a bid to raise money for Debra's "A Life Free of Pain" appeal, which is hoping to pay to test drug treatments that should improve the quality of life for people with ‘butterfly skin’. "We need to get on top of this condition because it is brutal,” Souness added.
European Cup - 🏆🏆🏆
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"Graeme can show him the medals!" 🏅
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It’s a noble cause and far removed from the picture many liked to paint of Souness in his punditry days. Online he was mocked for his straight-talking nature or his Pogba irritation, but on the big topics he has been a voice of reason.
When the Black Lives Matter protests were happening during Covid-19, Souness turned the mirror onto himself and how he has acted in the past. “I’m a man in my sixties, and for the very first time in my life I’m questioning myself,” he said in the studio.
“Only twice in my life, in the football world, and that’s the world I know, was I confronted with racist remarks. And I didn’t challenge them, and I’m angry with myself now. I brushed it off at the time.
“What can a man of 60-plus do to be more part of the cause? And I think right across generations people are saying that. As a white man I have never lived in black skin obviously and I have not witnessed the prejudices.”
We’ve undoubtedly seen him grow as a person on our screens. Souness, who was previously considered ‘old-school’ has intelligently hit the right marks on racism and homophobia, arguably the two biggest issues in football today.
@MattMurray20 and Graeme Souness discuss the lack of openly gay players in the @premierleague.
"I came from a generation, where it was extremely homophobic, the banter in our dressing room. I came down and took part in the Brighton Pride and it was enlightening. I learnt so much.
"I found it extremely educational and I would tell anyone to come here if they want to learn more. They will go away with a completely different opinion."
For such an influential role model to be so open with his views and open to changing his perception has undoubtedly positively influenced several men of his age. Souness might not be on our screens to say the right thing at the right time anymore, but his next challenge has given him another platform to prove his worth.
Far more than Paul Pogba’s biggest hater, Souness just keeps getting better and better.
To donate to Debra's "A Life Free of Pain" appeal, please click here.