North east football community hold swabbing event in Gateshead to find stem cell donor for boy, 6

The football tournament was also Leland’s last chance to play football before he begins treatment. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

A North East football community has come together to show their support before a six-year-old boy starts his pre-leukaemia treatment, with members of his club tested to see if they could be a stem cell match.

The mass swabbing event was held at a children's football tournament in Gateshead with the hope of finding donor for Leland, who plays for Blyth Spartans.

Charities Anthony Nolan and DKMS swabbed attendees at the event at Gateshead Redheugh football club.

It was also the last opportunity for Leland, from Gateshead, to play football for the next two years as his treatment starts in the new year.  

His mum Sarah said: "Its kind of evolved and manifested into something quite large and I'm just really grateful and overwhelmed.

"It's amazing to see all these children here, giving up their time and the coaches giving up their time and referees volunteering just to give Leland this opportunity one last time."

  • Video report by Jennie Henry

The campaign to find Leland a donor has been backed by Deadpool film star Ryan Reynolds.

The Hollywood actor recently bought the North Wales team, Wrexham AFC, who played Blyth Spartans in an FA cup game.

Reynolds tweeted in support of Leland as well as sending him a personalised message, which was shared by Spartans midfielder JJ O'Donnell.

Sarah said: "Obviously we're still waiting for that match fingers crossed through all of the swabbing thats been taking place over the last few weeks that you know that there might be one out there.

"We're hoping there could be one for the new year and get Leland his treatment started sooner rather than later but obviously as you can see he's such a happy little child.

"It's a long road ahead of him to come and something that you've got to be prepared for but if we can give him all these opportunities now, hopefully he's not feeling like he's left out."

She added: "His little team have been fantastic, his coaches, the club, just rallying around him and being good friends.

"They just love playing football and love life and that's what it's all about."

Leland added that despite his recent time in the spotlight he doesn't want to be famous, he just wants to be normal. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

Leland said he was excited and nervous ahead of competing with his team at the tournament.

He said: "Today has been a very good day, starting off it's been quite good, being here at Redheugh football club and I think we should carry on all of our hard work.

"We've been sorting out tournaments for the last time I play football in two years."

Charity, Anthony Nolan, recently reported a surge in sign-ups to their donor register, citing Ryan Reynolds publicity of Leland's story as the source.

More than 1,000 people registered in two days, up from their usual average of around 78 sign ups a day.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...