A FORMER Bolton Premier League referee who took control of some of football’s most passionate rivalries is determined to show cancer the red card.

Mark Halsey made the big calls in the top flight of English football for 14 years between 1999 and 2013, having refereed in the Football League for 12 years prior to that.

And the 56-year-old, from Little Lever, also took charge prestigious matches such as the 2008 League Cup final between Spurs and Chelsea. But while staying fit enough to keep some of the world’s top players in line was a big challenge, one of his biggest battles has been with cancer.

Mr Halsey was diagnosed win non-Hodgkin lymphoma in August, 2009, after a tumour was found in his throat. The blow came just nine months after his wife, Michelle, was given the news she had leukaemia.

He was forced to take a year out of the game while he underwent chemotherapy treatment, but fought back to take his place on the list of Premier League officials. He has been in remission since 2010 and remains free of the disease.

Mrs Halsey, aged 48, is able to treat her disease with drugs, but it cannot be fully cured.

Now, driven on by his own experiences, Mr Halsey is set to scale Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa’s highest mountain — and then referee a full 90-minute football match at the summit.

And the match will be played in the crater of Kilimanjaro at an altitude of 5,895 metres above sea level.

If successful, the challenge will enter the Guinness Book of Records for the highest game of football to ever take place.

The former official has got back into refereeing mode when he took charge of the Game for Grenfell charity match last month.

He said: “It’s going to be quite a big challenge with the altitude and climbing up there.

“I’ve been doing quite a bit of work at Sportesse gym in Chorley.

“It’s been very hard but enjoyable.

“It’s an excellent cause we’re going up there for. Everyone knows someone battling cancer and we are, and we are trying to raise as much money as possible to help them fight it.”

And Mr Halsey says his own battle, and that of his wife give him extra determination to complete the challenge for others facing cancer.

“I’ve had quite a few battles, and none more so than my own battle with cancer. This means quite a bit to us, as my wife is still battling leukaemia.”

Speaking about the time when both he and Mrs Halsey were battling the disease, he said: “It was tough, it was very tough, but you learn to cope with those things and get through them, it’s a case of having to.”

And he added: “Michelle has good days and bad days.

“She has come through a bad period. The hospital has given her some different tablets and hopefully that will sort it all out.”

But with the 40-strong party, sponsored by the You Are The Ref website, due to fly out next week, he said he was beginning to relish the challenge.

He said: “I was a bit apprehensive, but now it’s getting closer and closer I can’t wait for it to come along.

“It’s one of those things you need to raise as much as possible to help others fight and battle the disease.”

Among the group will be Steve Prescott’s wife, Linzi, who is a trustee of the charity set up by her late husband. Mr Halsey counted Mr Prescott — a legend at St Helens Rugby League Club — as a personal friend and said he takes extra motivation from the example he set in his lifetime.

The Steve Prescott Foundation is raising money for three causes — The Christie Hospital in Manchester, the Rugby League Benevolent Fund and the SPF Special Causes Fund.

To sponsor Mr Halsey, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/yatrkili2017