Tragic death of young footballer

Josef Kazzan
Josef Kazzan

The devastated mother of a boy who died in a tragic accident has paid tribute to her ‘beautiful, lovely boy’ and says his family have been left ‘broken’ by their loss.

Football-mad Josef (Joe) Kazzan, nine, died after he got tangled in a play rope attached to a tree in his garden.

His mum Rachel Cullen, 43, described how the family had been to church before returning to their home in Woodlands Drive, Gomersal, on Sunday July 15.

The house has a huge tree-lined back garden with a play area for the children, and after lunch Joe went out to play.

Full-time mum Rachel said she thought her son was with his father Ahmed, 61.

She said: “I was looking for him. I had been to the front gate in the garden and then I turned around and saw Josef in the tree.”

The family frantically called an ambulance, while Rachel and Joe’s older sister Nadiah, who is first-aid trained, started CPR.

Paramedics rushed Joe to Dewsbury and District Hospital, managing to start his heart again on the way. He was then transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

Ahmed, a former mortgage and insurance service agent, said: “One of the doctors told me that there was a chance he could survive but that he could have brain damage.

“I told the doctor ‘I don’t care, I want him home. If there is a chance, do what you can’.”

Medics battled to keep Joe alive, but two days later the family was told he had brain stem death.

Ahmed said: “We decided to let him go in peace.”

Rachel said everyone had been left in shock by the tragic accident.

“I am just taking one hour at a time because I can’t even begin to think about life without Joe,” she said.

“Joe was a beautiful, lovely boy. He was full of life and energy and loved being around people. He would win everyone over. He loved company, he had loads of friends and was always wanting to call on his friends.

“He loved football, swimming, playing the piano. He would be reluctant at first, but then excelled at whatever he put his hand to.

“He was one half of his little brother, Sam. They were best friends. The family has been torn apart by this. The house is quiet, we are broken.”

Joe attended St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School in Birstall and headteacher Anthony Rush this week paid tribute to the popular pupil.

He said: “Josef was a lovely boy, with a mop of dark hair, a sparkle in his eye and a kind word for everyone. He was a good friend to his classmates and loved nothing better than playing chase or football.

“Josef was loved by everyone and his death is a sad loss to the school – for his friends and the teachers and other staff – as well as to the wider community.

“We know the family well, and as a Catholic community we will do all we can to support them. It is important that we continue to pray for them at this difficult time, but there will be difficult days in the future as well and we will be there for them.

“We treasure our children at St Patrick’s and Josef will be sadly missed. We hope that the family are now given the space they need to grieve and come to terms with this devastating accident.”

Joe was also a popular player for Drighlington U10s and just two weeks ago had been presented with the Parents’ Player of the Year award.

Manager and secretary at Drighlington Juniors Simon Duckworth said: “He was just a smashing kid. He did what he was told, he had a glint in his eye and a mischievous grin but there wasn’t a nasty bone in his body.

“He had a fantastic season, he played every minute of every game because he was that important to the team he was playing in.

“It has come as a shock to everybody.”

Mr Duckworth said the club had plans for a memorial trophy to be made as a tribute to the young footballer. They are also collecting donations to the children’s ward at LGI, and Josef’s family say anyone else wishing to donate in his memory can do so.

The funeral service was held last Friday at St Paul’s Catholic Church, Cleckheaton, which was attended by family and friends, as well as teachers and pupils from St Patrick’s.