Friends and family of Pierre Bolangi gathered at the club’s Sparrows Lane training ground in July for the first annual legacy match in his name.
Pierre was taking part in the club’s U18s’ pre-season training camp in Aldershot when he got into difficulty and drowned during an army training exercise on August 9th 2000.
The legacy match organised in conjunction with Pierre’s former teammate, Kevin George and Soccology, saw the club’s U16s take on a select XI giving young players the opportunity to play against Charlton.
Kevin explained the legacy game: “There’s three parts to Pierre’s legacy. This one is about the dream. He didn’t get a chance to fulfil his dream but what we want to do is provide a platform for other people to achieve their dream. That is by getting access first of all to top coaches and facilities, so we’ve had Carl Laraman who coached Pierre at Charlton, who went on to Arsenal working, with these guys.
“In the legacy game they’re playing against Charlton and they’re actually at the training ground which gives them everything possible to set them up to go on to make it in football, hopefully in Pierre’s name but also getting the benefits of this type of exposure in whatever career they choose because I still benefit now from football even though I don’t play anymore.”
The young Charlton side came out on top in a competitive game and following the game a player from Kevin’s side is now on trial with Charlton.
Speaking on the day of the game, Rob Lawrence remembered his childhood friend: “Pierre was a charismatic person, outgoing, tenacious and a bubbly person. Everyone who met him loved him. He was just a great all-round person. He tragically passed while being away with Charlton on an assault course but he was just an all-round lovely guy. He would do anything for anyone. Obviously for me, we grew up together. He was my right-hand man basically. Brilliant all-round person – I can’t explain it any better than that.
“For Charlton to carry on his legacy, he would be singing with his high-pitched voice all the praises for everyone who’s been involved in and around the club. He lived and died for Charlton. I know he definitely would’ve loved what’s going on today.”
Pierre’s cousin, Tony Ilo said: “He would have done anything for this club. I think he has the same feelings for the club as most of the die-hard fans that come and support Charlton. It’s a really nice thing that we can all come together and pass on the memory to young kids. It carries on the legacy. It’s wonderful.”
An annual award has also been set-up in Pierre’s name which goes to a player in Charlton’s academy who embodies his characteristics.
Academy Director, Steve Avory explained why it is important the club continue to remember Pierre: “He was a very well respected, talented footballer who tragically lost his life in an accident. We’ve had a memorial to Pierre with what we call the Pierre Bolangi memorial garden. I think it’s nice that we do something like this game. It’s a great idea with Kevin George because this is a football match, young Pierre was a footballer, and we must remember that and this will allow his legacy to live on.”
Rob paid tribute to the Charlton fanbase for their support. He said: “The family and I would like to thank them for that. They’ve been there when it mattered. The fans who turn up have always been so lovely to us. They paid their respects. Thanks a lot.”
(Photography by Chijoke Amechi)