Graeme Souness tells Chris Evans about his £1m English Channel charity swim: ‘It was like swimming in jellyfish soup’

Virgin Radio

20 Jun 2023, 09:06

Credit: Virgin Radio / Rex

Having just completed a swim across the English Channel to raise over £1m for charity, Graeme Souness joined The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch to talk about it.

The football legend took on the epic challenge as part of a six-person relay team on Saturday (17th June). It took 12 hours and 17 minutes. “It was tough. But it was a fantastic experience,” he told Chris.

The team were raising money for Debra UK, a charity which supports children and adults suffering from rare skin disease Epidermolysis Bullosa. The rare disease causes painful, blistering skin. 

Speaking about how he considered himself a good swimmer before taking on the challenge, the former Liverpool star told Chris: “When I say I’m a good swimmer, it was the Mediterranean, in a swimming pool. So when you get out into the open sea, it’s a very different story! 

“But I had nine months to prepare, I was training with some ex-Marines. So, they were a hard school to be part of. And it was just nine months of hard graft, getting up at five o'clock in the morning, in the winter months, in the dark, swimming in the dark.”

Speaking about getting into the Channel, Graeme said: “Looking back, I didn't think it'd be easy, but I thought I'd cope with it better than I did in the first hour I was in the water. I was in at 12.30, it was pitch black… The water wasn't consistent.” 

He added: “There were a couple of periods where it was like swimming in a jellyfish soup. I mean, you're getting handfuls of jellyfish, and swiping them away as you’re swimming.”

Whilst the distance is officially 21 miles, the footy pundit revealed: “We ended up doing 30 miles. The current takes you one way, then it brings you back the other, and you're following the boat, you're three, four metres from the board, focused on a little light at nighttime. That's all you see in the water.” 

Speaking about doing the swim as part of a relay, Graeme told Chris: “It was great being part of a team again. If you spoke to a football player, ‘What do you miss most about playing?’ The first thing they would say is, ‘Playing the game’. And the second thing they would say, to a man, they would say, ‘Being part of a group again, with the banter.  Being part of a team.’”

Regarding Epidermolysis Bullosa, Greame explained: “It's a skin disease. It's genetic. You're born with it, and it gets worse and worse and worse. They can't form the outer layer of skin. 

The best way I can describe it, if you imagine someone has taken a blowtorch to these children, and it's raw, constantly raw. They have to have their dressing changed, three, four times a week. When they're having the dressings changed that to go on heavy drugs… just to get them to the four hours, whatever it is, to change their dressing. It is the cruellest of cruel diseases.”

He added: “There’s no quality of life. Today is going to be painful or really painful, then I'll go to bed and tomorrow will be painful or really painful. There's no light at the end of the tunnel.”

Despite having already raised over £1 million for the charity, the sporting legend said: “That's not enough. We can never have enough money. 

“If someone invents a drug today, by the time we take it through the process of trialling it, then get a licence and get it onto the market, it’s 17, 18 years and it's tens of millions of pounds. So what the very smart and clever scientists are looking to do is repurpose drugs that are on the market.”

Graeme explained how he was told by one young sufferer of the disease that “the only real one that we get any relief from is E45.” He told Chris: “Now, I was using E45 forty years ago for dry skin. Forty years further on, and that's all we can offer these kids?” 

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