Hundreds turn out for memorial match to much-loved teenager who died at university

Emotions ran high as two football teams held a minute’s applause for a much-loved teenager on what would have been his 20th birthday.

George's parents Paul and Julie, and sister Hannah, with the two teams ahead of the match
George's parents Paul and Julie, and sister Hannah, with the two teams ahead of the match

George Stephens, from All Stretton, died on February 23 last year, just three weeks before his 19th birthday and when Covid rules meant only 20 people were allowed to gather for his funeral.

On Sunday afternoon hundreds of people including friends, school mates and fellow sportspeople turned out in the glorious south Shropshire sunshine for a memorial football match – and for a proper collective opportunity to grieve the loss of their friend.

Liverpool and Shrewsbury football fan George Stephens was in his first year of studying economics and finance at The University of Sussex when he died at home. At an inquest the coroner delivered a conclusion of ‘accidental death’.

George Stephens, from All Stretton, died in February last year

Hundreds of mourners turned out to line the streets during his funeral, while more than £10,000 has been raised in his memory. George had attended primary and secondary school in Church Stretton and then later attended Shrewsbury Sixth Form.

Goalposts at the Russell Meadow Football Fields in Church Stretton were covered with flowers following George’s death. He had played on the ground where teammates from Church Stretton School and Church Stretton Magpies came to play the memorial match.

Hannah Stephens, George’s sister, said: “It is very emotional, there were lots of tears. A lot of people have struggled to come to terms with what happened to George and it is nice that so many people have turned up. The idea of the day isn’t to raise money, it is as a memorial for George because there could be no wake. Everyone has been so brilliant.”

The teams applauded George before kick-off

Karen Brayne, a family friend to George’s mum Julie, dad Paul and sister Hannah, said: “It is just amazing to see the number of people here in the sunshine. There must be at least 300 people.”

“George was a very popular young man, loved by everybody who came into contact with him because of his personality, his fun loving nature and his jokes.”

Karen’s son, Ellys, was among the teammates and former teachers who played in the match.

A table heaving with home made cakes and the opportunity to make donations for teas, coffees and refreshments gave people the chance to donate in George’s memory.

The match was a memorial to George after his funeral took place under Covid restrictions

A fundraising page set up in George’s memory has already smashed the £10,000 mark and the family aims to set up a legacy trust in his name.

Hannah, George’s sister said mental health charities for young people and sports based causes could be in line for contributions.

And the family has a special desire to give to a cause that helps people grieving the loss of a youngster.

“Many people couldn’t get their heads around losing George,” said Hannah. “It would be nice to donate to a place where people could turn to.”

Anyone wanting to make donations to the fund can do so through the justgiving.com/crowdfunding/george-stephens-funeral website.

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