Queen’s Award winning ref who sparred with Henry Cooper and fought off robbers dies

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Queen’s Award winning ref who sparred with Henry Cooper and fought off robbers dies

Michael Mather, from Ilford, honoured for his voluntary work, fought off  brutal thugs who attacked him outside his home in Ilford, Essex

Michael Mather
Michael Mather

A winner of the Queen’s Award who helped build a school and won honours as a football and squash coach has died aged 87.

Michael Mather, who passed away on 7 May 2022 at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, was bestowed with the Queens Award for Voluntary Care Work – equivalent to an MBE.

And only 10 years ago the former boxer, who once sparred with Henry Cooper fought off  brutal thugs who attacked him outside his home in Ilford, Essex.

He also received a London Football Association Award for services to refereeing.

Michael helped to build Clore Tikvah primary school in Barkingside. Once the school was established in 1999, he taught as a volunteer teacher to help improve the education of the children.

Michal Mather

Michael had been born in Hackney to Rachel and George Mather on 26 November 1934. From the age of 18, he completed more than two years of national service in the Royal Air Force.

He earned a Masters in Law at the University of London Queen Mary College.

He became a senior lecturer at North West London Polytechnic, East London University and Kings College University for more than 20 years.

He then went on to receive a masters in manpower studies at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries, and an advanced diploma in education.

Michael Mather was a keen sportsman and passionate footballer. He played for Tottenham Hotspurs reserves at age 18.

Once retired from semi-professional football, he became a Football Association soccer coach and referee.

His Queens Award for Voluntary Care Work and his London Football Association Award for services to refereeing came in 2010.

Michael also represented Wanstead Squash Club as a coach and player. Michael most notably boxed with the Kray twins and sparred with Henry Cooper.

That fighting spirit was also put to good use fighting off some thugs who invaded his home at age 77. He was hit on the head with a wooden club as they tried to force their way into his house while he loaded his car. Mr Mather hit one of them in the face and the pair, in their late teens, fled the scene.

Micky was referee for decades for Ilford football club Royal Falcons – which produced QPR and Gillingham ace Dennis Oli.

Its secretary Gary Ransom said: “He was our referee for home games for years and never let us down. The kids used to love him – and if one went down injured, he always wanted to treat them before the medics could.

“He was such a terrific man – we kept in touch with each other for all the 12 years after he retired, talking about how terrible Spurs had been that weekend!”

He is survived by a daughter and son, Sarah and James Mather, who said: “We will carry the memory of our devoted father in their hearts forever.

“Our dad is our hero and best friend. His great qualities and values will live on through everything we do, and as we said to him in his last moments: Dad, we love you so much and we’re so proud of you. We will work the rest of our lives to make you proud of us.”

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