Upon his return to Canada, Simon joined the Canadian National Training Center while also playing for the UVIC Vikes Soccer Team. It was at this time that Simon was faced with an unknown illness that interrupted his career. Simon was just 21 when, in July of 1986, he received the heart of a 17 year-old boy, who ironically died while playing soccer. The surgery was performed at Papworth Hospital outside of London by renowned surgeons Dr. Mohsin Hakim and Sir Terence English.
Simon then moved to Las Vegas in 1987 determined to return to the field of play. Amazingly, he returned to competitive soccer playing for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, under head coach Barry Barto. During two seasons with the Rebels, he garnered many honors including being named the Student-Athlete of Year for the Conference and being voted USA’s Most Courageous Athlete. After his senior season, Simon was named the Most Valuable Player at the Senior Bowl and was drafted first overall into the Major Indoor Soccer League, just three years after his heart transplant. His professional career included stops in Cleveland, Victoria, Winnipeg and Montreal.
Now one of the longest-living organ transplant recipients in the world and most notable professional athletes of his time, Simon recently published his biography – Heart for the Game - detailing this most unique journey, including his return to Wales to stand on the field with his donor’s father, 25 years after that fateful day when the boy lost his life.
In 2011, he founded The Simon Keith Foundation, an organization dedicated to increasing organ donor awareness and educating transplant recipients. A keynote speaker, Simon uses the proceeds from his engagements to provide athletic training for other transplant recipients who choose to return to an active and healthy lifestyle.
Simon is married to Victoria native, Kelly, and has three children: Sarah, Samantha and Sean. In addition to his philanthropic efforts, and professional soccer career, he is also the Chief Operating Officer of the Nevada Donor Network, the organ procurement organization for the state of Nevada. Simon has been inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame as well as been honored by speaking at the White House in advocating for improved organ donation systems.
SPONSORED BY SIMON KEITH FOUNDATION
From Gabriola Island to Northern Ireland, Ike’s soccer journey covered many miles. The first three years of his life were spent on Gabriola Island and from three to twenty-three, he lived in Victoria. It was there that he had to choose between soccer and hockey. "I really liked hockey," he says, "but we could only train twice a week for one hour. There were only two arenas in Victoria at that time.”
Hockey's loss was soccer's gain, and in grade 11 his Oak Bay team won the BC championship. The next year he played for Victoria United. In his second year with Victoria United (the Victoria O’Keefes) he won the Kennedy Cup, which was made up of two teams from California, one team from BC and the Mexican National team. At 17 he was selected for the BC-U21 team that won the Canadian championship. Ike would win two more with Vic West, when he was 33 and 36 years old. At 18 he played for Canada in the Olympic preliminaries and Pan American Games.
The following summer he signed a professional contract with the Vancouver Royals of the North American Soccer League. One of the most talented players in Canadian soccer history, Ike's career was unique in that he accomplished it in an era when a soccer career was measured by a players’ success in the Greater Victoria Soccer League or the Pacific Coast Soccer League. Instead, Ike broke barriers by travelling to Europe to compete in the Northern Ireland Football League after three years of university.
He returned and finished a Bachelor's degree at UVIC and was player coach in his last year. He then completed an MA in physical education at the University of Alberta, winning the Canadian University Soccer Championship. From 1976 to 1978, Ike played for the Portland Timbers of the NASL, which was interspersed with bouts on Canada’s World Cup team.
"There were no training camps for weeks on end. We got together a week before the tournament and that was about it." Qualifying for the World Cup was difficult because Canada always had to beat Mexico whose home game was at high altitude with very polluted air.
Ike moved back to Gabriola in 1975 and taught physical education in Nanaimo for 17 years. It was there that the game of Futsal (five vs. five indoor soccer) caught his eye and he went on to coach both the men's and women's national teams.
SPONSORED BY VANCOUVER ISLAND SOCCER