Thorkild Hansen first started running around Nelson’s football fields as a 10 year old boy, 30-odd years later he has been honoured as FC Nelson’s first life member.
Over his career, Thorkild has scored bucket loads of goals and won plenty of silverware, but it has also included helping to save a life, helping him to fight cancer and helping him win over his now-wife.
Thorkild first started playing with Metro AFC and then FC Nelson, which was formed when Metro merged with Nelson United and Nelson City in 2011.
He says since the late 70s he has played every season other than when he was travelling abroad and when he took two years off to fight a rare form of cancer.
On the pitch, Thorkild has won various league titles and cups. Among his highlights are scoring four goals while his new girlfriend – now his wife – watched him play for the very first time.
“I think it duly impressed and I haven’t been able to do it again, so my timing was perfect.”
Another highlight was winning the Glen Stephens Memorial Trophy three years ago.
“That was special because we all knew Glen.”
Twelve years ago Thorkild was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer. He says football left him well placed to put up a good fight.
“I think that being in my 30s when it happened helped and the fact that I was fit, because I was playing football. I think that helped and my love for my wife and kids. I just felt, ‘no, I’m up for this. I’ll keep fighting’. It was pretty full on but I’m still here.”
Since then he has stepped back from his job managing the family business, Jens Hansen, and taken on a new career as a teacher at the Centre for Fine Woodworking in Wakapuaka.
And while Thorkild credits football for helping him fight cancer, his isn’t the only life his association with football has saved.
Earlier this season, a teammate of Thorkild’s was putting on his boots for training. Thorkild and another team mate noticed that he looked “buggered”, before he fell backwards.
Thorkild started CPR as other team mates called an ambulance. It was later discovered that he had suffered a heart attack and Thorkild’s quick thinking had helped to save his life.
Despite all that, Thorkild says he was “completely shocked” to be honoured as FC Nelson’s first life member at the club’s awards evening on Saturday night.
“I was quite taken aback, I didn’t see it coming. When George [Molnar, FC Nelson president] was talking about it I thought ‘oh, this is a good idea’. I didn’t realize that he was talking about me. It was quite the spectacle.”
George says when the award was announced the entire crowd started chanting Thorkild’s name.
“It was incredible and I thought to myself ‘that pretty much cements it’. It was fantastic, the best award we handed out.”
George says they decided to give the life membership to Thorkild because he ticked all the boxes of someone deserving of it.
“He carries a lot of mana in the club. He’s a founding member of FC Nelson, has run the bar at Victory Square for the past five years, is a massive part of the masters team, and this year helped saved a teammate’s life. All of that added up to making the decision pretty easy.”
And Thorkild isn’t done yet, he says he’ll be back on the pitch next year.
“It’s always been something that I’ve been involved in and a vehicle for me to help people. I’m a born organiser perhaps. Some of the guys even call me aunty, Aunty Torkhild, which is an endearment of affection, I image. I like to make sure that everyone enjoys their game and, of course, I love playing myself.”