Healthy Living

Former Pro Athlete Sells Medal to Give Teen Soccer Fan Lung Transplant

Former Pro Athlete Sells Medal to Give Teen Soccer Fan Lung Transplant

Photo credit: @DavidTannerTV, twitter

Mo Johnston, former star athlete as part of both the Rangers and the Celtics has decided he wants to give back. He has decided to sell his league medal in order to raise money so a teen with cystic fibrosis could receive a lung transplant that has become crucial to his health.

Background on Johnston

Recently inducted into Sporting Legends hall of honor, Mo Johnson has had quite the memorable career. Originally from Scotland, Johnston opened on a global stage in 1984 when he assisted his team to making the FA Cup Final, a significant achievement. Soon thereafter, he began playing for Celtic, winning the Scottish Cup in 1985 and the League Championship in 1986. He soon became famous for his goal scoring, with game statistics that had been largely unprecedented. Eventually, he returned home with the Rangers. As a part of their team, Johnston won two Premier Leagues, medals that he is now putting to what he finds better use.

Johnston began to receive a lot of attention not only for being a Rangers star player, but also for gaining so much press and being Catholic. Now, seeing the charitable activities he involves himself in, his religious upbringing may certainly have had an influence on him.

Soon after playing for the rangers, Johnston started playing major league soccer in America, becoming a key player on the Kansas City Wizards. Upon retiring, he began to coach instead of play. It was during his time coaching that he met Matias Cozzi, the boy he is trying to raise money for, for a vital lung transplant. Throughout his career, Johnston became a hero to many with his impeccable soccer skill; however, it is safe to say that he will be a hero to young Matias Cozzi above any other fan.

Raising money

Instead of holding a fundraiser to raise money for Cozzi, Johnston decided on a much more personal route. He decided that he would sell one of his league medals, a possession some would consider priceless, in an attempt to allow the teen to afford his operation. The medal, specifically, is the Premier Division winners medal that he earned when competing with the Rangers, when they won in the 1989-90 season. For any Rangers fans out there, you probably know that this was one of the medals won in the "nine in a row" era, when the Rangers had won nine consecutive titles. Needless to say, this feat makes the medal even more valuable. He will be accepting cash bids for the prize, all of which will go to Matias' operation.

However, Johnston isn't alone in his efforts to raise money. A movement has already started to gain funds for Cozzi, started by his uncle. Using the online crowdfunding website "GoFundMe", Andrea Guerrero was able to begin receiving small donations in order to help with the cost of healthcare, including the operation.

The page reads, "Hello, my name is Andrea Guerrero and I am starting this fundraiser with the hopes of reaching as many people as possible in my efforts to raise money to help towards the extremely costly lung transplant desperately needed by my nephew Matias Cozzi. Matias is a 17-year-old teenage boy who has been in critical condition since Friday Sept 8 due to the incurable genetic disease of cystic fibrosis. Matias is a typical teenager with an extreme passion for soccer. He played for many years until his lungs could not keep up anymore. He is an outstanding straight A's student, loving son, awesome friend, intensely disciplined, and determined kid. Matias was diagnosed at 4 months old which forever changed his life and the life of his entire family. His only hope of survival is to have as soon as possible a double lung transplant. All of his doctors, nurses, family, and friends are amazed by his sheer strength, courage, strong will and determination to conquer this hard battle he is faced with. I ask all of you who read this to please donate whatever you can to help Matias breathe. I thank everyone for your prayers, well wishes and support for our family whom will forever be grateful."

However, the amount accrued so far is not nearly enough to cover the operation, which is why Mr. Johnston felt so adamant in stepping in to help.

Living with cystic fibrosis

Unfortunately, Matias has been in critical condition, resulting in the need for constant therapy which only mounts the costs. His uncle has further explained that there is an "aggressive progression" of the cystic fibrosis, mainly within the last few years, resulting in his frequent visits to the hospital- another cost. His uncle further explained that Matias has frequently "underwent several critical lifesaving procedures. Matias is now connected to an artificial lung in order to give him a chance to continue to fight for his life."

It is difficult to imagine how it can be fair for such a young boy to be dealing with all of these hardships, but he certainly has loving family, and now Mo Johnston, standing by his side.

The costs

So, just how much does have to be raised either by the GoFundMe, Johnston's medal, or both? The cost of his only chance of survival is estimated to cost up to $49,000.

A few months ago, this might have seemed like a bit of a pipe dream. However, Johnston's auctioning of his medals acted as more than just a fundraising effort. Because the act is so noteworthy, many press outlets reported the situation. Therefore, as people learned about Matias' condition, traffic to the GoFundMe page began to soar. Via hundreds of small donations, the crowdfunding website currently has reached $34,117 of their $50,000 goal, making it appear as if they'll get the money they need. 394 people have donated, sometimes leaving as little as $5 to as much as $700.

Along with their donations, they leave well wishes for Matias, and hopes for his strength. One donor wrote, "Matias, there is no better way to recover from an illness than to remain with good spirits and being eager to win and you have demonstrated that you can overcome anything. I wish you a quick recovery so you can return to your daily activities in no time." This speaks to Matias' strength and ability to overcome the difficult ordeal he finds himself in, regardless of the monetary and physical obstacles.

So, the remaining amount necessary for Matias to be able to receive his transplant is just shy of $16,000. Of course, people are still donating to the page every day, but it is likely that Johnston's medal will seal the deal. Soccer fans across the world would likely love to get their hands on such an artifact, meaning that it's entirely possible that someone would be willing to spend that kind of money for it.

Reporter David Tanner recently tweeted "Fancy owning a piece of Rangers 9-in-a-row history? Mo Johnston is auctioning a title medal to aid a kid with cystic fibrosis." It is likely that sports fan will answer the call.

If you would like to donate to Matias Cozzi's lung transplant, or read more about his story, feel free to visit his GoFundMe page:


As of October 1, 2017, Matias has had a double lung transplant and is on his way to recovery, just recently taking his first steps since the operation.