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England fan who skipped Euro semi-final to donate stem cells given tickets to final
8 July 2021, 18:14 | Updated: 8 July 2021, 18:21
A football fan who skipped the chance to go to England's Euro 2020 semi-final win because he was donating stem cells is set to be at Wembley for the final after he was offered free tickets.
Sam Astley, a 24-year-old buyer from Cradley Heath near Birmingham, was given the chance to go to the clash with Denmark on Wednesday night after his girlfriend Beth Hill won two tickets in an online competition, but he instead decided to stick with his appointment to donate potentially life-saving stem cells.
"He was being admitted to hospital yesterday before his procedure this morning,” said Ms Hill.
"He was like 'I'm not going to go (to the football), there's no way I'm going to delay the donation, this is a chance of life for someone else'."
On Thursday, tournament sponsor Vivo confirmed they would give tickets to Mr Astley and Ms Hill, who was also unable to attend the semi-final because she was self-isolating, so they can see England take on Italy on Sunday in their first major final since 1966.
The company wrote on Twitter: "We saw this and would like to help Sam go to the final on Sunday.
"Sam deserves to be at the game and we want to make it happen!"
Hi @samastley1_ and @gemmapeters 👋— vivo Europe (@vivo_europe) July 8, 2021
We saw this and would like to help Sam go to the final on Sunday. Sam deserves to be at the game and we want to make it happen! #ToPerfectMoments cc. @GMB @AnthonyNolan @GaryLineker @SimonThomasTV @campbellclaret @StourbridgeNews https://t.co/L0BoNihH2G
Once Mr Astley’s story started to go viral online, a campaign grew on social media to ensure his selflessness was rewarded with tickets to the final.
Gary Lineker and representatives from blood cancer charities put out a call for somebody to step in.
Mr Astley replied to Gary Lineker on Twitter, thanking him for the recognition and saying he hoped his story would encourage others to donate stem cells.
“Thanks for the recognition @GaryLineker & thanks for all the wonderful messages off everyone!” He tweeted.
“I’m glad @AnthonyNolan are getting more exposure so hopefully more people sign up to their register & give others a chance at life.
The procedure went well and I’m now recovering.”
Thanks for the recognition @GaryLineker & thanks for all the wonderful messages off everyone! I’m glad @AnthonyNolan are getting more exposure so hopefully more people sign up to their register & give others a chance at life. The procedure went well and I’m now recovering 👍 pic.twitter.com/rGamrWxWga— Sam Astley (@samastley1_) July 8, 2021
Mr Astley, a Manchester United supporter, was contacted a few weeks ago by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan and told he was a match.
But according to Ms Hill, a critical care nurse, he did not even consider going to the match.
Ms Hill said she was “just so proud of” Mr Astley for his actions.
"It's so selfless," she said.
"All he says to me is like 'you save lives every day at work' and 'you do this all the time' and 'you're better than me'.
"I'm like 'not at all Sam, what you have put yourself through and sacrificed for someone that you don't even know is just amazing'.
"I'm so proud of him and I can't wait to get to him on Saturday and actually see him."
Ms Hill, a West Brom supporter, was also unable to attend Wednesday's game as she was placed into isolation until Saturday when a colleague tested positive for Covid-19.
In the end, the tickets went to her two brothers, but she and her partner should now be able to attend the final instead.
Ms Hill said she felt Mr Astley "deserves it so much for everything he's doing".
"He is just the loveliest person ever," she said.
"He will do anything for anybody."
For more details on becoming a stem cell donor, go to anthonynolan.org.