A Sheffield referee underwent life-saving surgery after being hit on the head with a ball and discovering he had brain cancer.
Melvyn Scarborough, aged 55, had taken a year off from refereeing games after suffering from chronic tiredness and a lack of balance, which his doctors put down to depression.
But during a one-off game he had agreed to referee, he was knocked unconscious after being struck on the back of the head by a ball.
Melvyn, who has been a referee for 20 years, was taken to hospital and a CT scan revealed a fist-sized tumour.
The married father-of-three said: “That football has saved my life.
“I hadn’t refereed a game for over a year. I had even taken my name off the referee register and I had turned down quite a few people who had rung up asking me to referee a game.
“Then I got a call completely out of the blue asking me to referee this friendly game and for some reason, I really don’t know why, I said yes.
“When the ball hit me on the back of my head, I was walking to the sidelines to give the player space to take his free kick.
“It actually knocked me out for a few minutes and because I fell to the ground face first, my bottom teeth were all broken and I had cuts to my face. I was quite badly injured and the player who had kicked the ball was distraught.
“I have been refereeing for 20 years and I’ve never been hit by a ball before.”
Melvyn, a construction site supervisor, said he is disappointed that his symptoms were previously put down to depression.
“I was really suffering before my diagnosis. I had nearly fallen asleep driving on a motorway and I was falling down, tripping over things and making silly mistakes,” he said.
“All the symptoms were there and I told the doctors everything but it wasn’t picked up and I do feel a bit bitter about that.
“What would have happened if it had never been found? I could have died or I could have had an accident while driving and taken somebody else out.
“Me and my family have been knocked back by this but I do feel grateful that it has been caught.
“My mum passed away from an aneurysm in her back only two weeks before I found my tumour and my wife said she must have put her wings around me and said it’s not my time to go yet.
“That football has given me a second chance.”