'Ref a game' fundraiser to help Twin Cities soccer referee battling cancer

A popular Twin Cities soccer referee has lost his only source of income as a cancer battle is keeping him off the field.

The local soccer community is rallying around him and asking for more help.

"Ref a game for Stanley" is the tagline for a fundraising campaign to make sure Stanley Akum can get through his health struggles and get back on the pitch where he’s apparently already beaten the odds once by becoming a popular referee.

For decades, Stanley Akum ran up and down soccer fields — first as a player, then a coach, and for the last 18 years as a referee.

But these days, he can barely walk a few hundred feet to his hospital appointments.

Stanley started noticing something was wrong when his pronunciations got weird last March.

"And then I couldn’t swallow when eating and then I was losing my taste," he said.

Doctors ran several tests before identifying throat cancer.

He’s started three two-week rounds of chemotherapy, which will be followed by radiation this fall.

"It just kills my body," he said. "I can’t eat, I don’t feel like sleeping."

So he hasn’t reffed a game since May, which was cause for concern among his friends.

"I know how much he depended on refereeing and needed the income from refereeing basically to survive," fellow referee Stephen Muscanto said.

Muscanto started the "Ref a Game for Stanley" fundraiser.

More than 240 people donated by Friday with messages crediting his effort, mentorship, and kindness.

"I think he has a joy of life," Muscanto said.

The support has lifted Stanley’s spirits and turned a red flag yellow when it comes to his living expenses.

But he still has a long way to go to kick cancer and get back the sport that’s in his blood.

"I miss soccer," he said. "Not only for the money that I did it, but I love the activities and I also love working with a lot of kids."

Stanley says the best case scenario is that he’ll be strong enough to get back out on the fields to referee next spring.