Glasgow & West Scotland

Scottish football legend Willie Henderson's Sahara trek

Willie Henderson Image copyright SNS

Scottish football legend Willie Henderson will spend his 75th birthday trekking 100 miles across the Sahara.

The former Rangers winger and Scotland international leaves for his trip on Saturday, and is making the journey to raise money and awareness in the fight against cervical cancer.

His daughter, Michelle, died of the disease when she was 28 years old.

By the end of his trip, he will have raised £300,000 for a charity set up in her memory.

The money raised buys gynaecology equipment for hospitals.

Mr Henderson said: "Michelle will be jumping over the moon with what I've been able to provide.

"It will help the fight against cervical cancer, then hopefully raise awareness of how important it is for women to go for their smear tests.

"It's five days in the desert where we will cover 100 miles (161km) - the Sahara desert isn't a walk in the park."

Mr Henderson will celebrate his 75th birthday on 24 January - so it will be spent it trekking through the desert.

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Willie Henderson when he played for Rangers in the 1960s

Despite his sporting pedigree, he said it would still be a "huge challenge" at his age.

Training has consisted of regular walks of up to 18km around the roads of West Lothian - where Mr Henderson lives - and in the Pentland Hills.

"Coming from the sporting background would be of some help to me in how I prepare," he said.

"Age is just a number in lots of situations - if you look after yourself it certainly helps me be in a position to be able to do it.

"Keeping myself fit over a long period of years helps.

"I think lifestyle is a big factor in my fitness - it's very good, and I do training too."

Image copyright Willie Henderson
Image caption Mr Henderson has previously trekked across the Namib Desert

Mr Henderson has an idea what to expect - previous charity treks have taken him to the Indonesian jungle, Gobi Desert, Namib Desert and Camino de Santiago.

He said he wanted women to get over the embarrassment sometimes associated with smear test screening.

"Embarrassment won't kill you, but cervical cancer might," he said.

Michelle died in 2012 - and he recalls the shock of the diagnosis.

"All of a sudden, at 26, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She lost her life at 28.

"Michelle was the type of person who just got on with her life as best she could."

Image copyright Willie Henderson
Image caption Michelle Henderson died from cervical cancer when she was 28 years old

Before she died, she set up the Michelle Henderson Cervical Cancer Trust. Her father vowed to continue her work in her memory.

He added: "It was an enormous loss, it's a pain we carry every day that will never leave us."

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