Ex-Manchester City player Sylvain Distin to cycle to France on Ukraine mercy mission

Cyclists hope their 1,300km ride will raise at least £15,000

Ex-Manchester City player Sylvain Distin (kneeling) has joined a cycling team that's raising money for Ukraine. Sandbanks to St Tropez/Instagram

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

Former Manchester City and France footballer Sylvain Distin has joined a new team raising funds for Ukraine.

Mr Distin, 44, is joining nine cyclists on a 10-day ride from Poole on the south coast of England to St Tropez in the South of France.

They hope the 1,300km ride will raise at least £15,000 ($19,000) for the Disasters Emergency Committee, made up of 15 British charities, and its Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

The war has forced more than five million people to flee Ukraine and millions more inside the country are displaced.

“I like to push myself and see what I’m capable of, although I’ve never taken on anything quite as big as this before,” Distin said.

Sylvain Distin played at Manchester City for five years. Getty Images

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can achieve all together as a team … and enjoying St Tropez once we’ve crossed the finish line.”

Distin now lives in Poole after finishing his football career at nearby Bournemouth. He played for five years at Manchester City and also played for Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle United and Everton.

A courier, businessmen, landscaper and shepherdess, who injured herself in a cycling accident in London, are just some of the people joining Distin on the ride.

“I didn’t know if I would be able to walk or cycle again,” shepherdess Jemma Harding said.

“After the accident, I moved back home to Dorset to recover. I got stronger and stronger, and I just knew that I would get back on a bike one day.

“I didn’t want to let what had happened defeat me. “It's going to be really tough, but it is for a really important cause, and I have every confidence in our amazing team.”

The cyclists are self-funded and any money raised on their Just Giving page will go towards the DEC’s Ukraine appeal.

The ride starts on May 18.

Landscaper Will Irons said childhood holidays to St Tropez served as inspiration for the ride.

His brother-in-law Dave Taylor said: “We have all been touched significantly by the tragic and shocking events unfolding in Ukraine and want to help by supporting the Disasters Emergency Committee to provide food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees and displaced families.”

Updated: April 26, 2022, 11:49 AM