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Littlest Mustang serves as an inspiration

Posted by Marcia Dick  November 21, 2011 10:04 AM

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John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Coach Mike Petrides makes sure Gidge Farraher stays warm during the Mustangs' final playoff game.

Gidge Farraher’s tiny freckled face is hidden by his blue Medford soccer cap. His feet don’t quite touch the ground as he sits on the team bench. His name — a nickname for George — is stitched in white on the left sleeve of his blue team jacket.

At 7 years old, Gidge is the littlest Mustang, the team’s honorary captain.

‘‘He’s pretty much our main motivator,’’ said Jonathan Pires, 16, a junior captain of the Medford High boys’ soccer team. ‘‘When we’re in a huddle, you just look at him and you feel motivated.’’

Gidge has brain cancer. Since July 2010, he’s had surgery and a rigorous regimen of radiation and chemotherapy that ended in September.

‘‘He’s doing well,’’ said his mother, Nikki Farraher. ‘‘We’re all hoping and praying that he continues to improve.’’

Gidge is the son of Nikki and George (‘‘Gidge Sr.’’) Farraher of Saugus. He has two older sisters, Ava, 12, and Ella, 9. He is in first grade at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Lynnfield. He plays on the Mariners in Saugus Little League, and in the youth basketball league at the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody.

Medford coach Mike Petrides invited Gidge to be part of the team after learning of his diagnosis.

‘‘We wanted to make him feel special,’’ said Petrides, 51, a veteran coach who has guided players from the youth level through men’s leagues. ‘‘I thought it would be good for our team to rally around him.’’

The players make regular visits to his house to play Xbox. They visited him at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was treated. On Nov. 8,  players had no school because it was Election Day in Medford. So they put on their blue warm-ups, grabbed some balls, and headed to Gidge’s school, where they surprised him and his classmates with a soccer clinic at lunch.

‘‘He didn’t know a thing about us coming,’’ Pires said. ‘‘He came out the door and was just shocked. He ran right over to us, giving us hugs.’’

Gidge often couldn’t make the night games, but he got to many of the afternoon games. After a checkup at Mass General on Nov. 9, he went straight to the Mustangs’ state tournament game at Lincoln-Sudbury. The Mustangs won, 2-1, in overtime, and Gidge helped them celebrate on the field.

‘‘He just loves the boys,’’ his mother said. ‘‘They really do make him feel special, like he’s part of the team. ... He goes around the house singing ‘We are the Mustangs, the mighty mighty Mustangs.’ He sings it all the time.’’

Gidge was on the bench when Medford faced Masconomet in the North semifinals. During a halftime strategy session, he peered through the net, listening to Petrides fire up the players. Then he took his spot in the middle of the huddle, joining the team as they shouted ‘‘1-2-3 ... Mustangs!’’

When Medford lost the game, 1-0, in double overtime, Gidge cried so hard he couldn’t talk. But he gave out hugs to the coaches and players. And that got the Mustangs feeling like little kids.

‘‘When I saw him cry, that’s when I started to cry,’’ said senior John Dumbuya, 18,  the star forward. ‘‘We all love him. It hurts us all to see him cry.’’

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.

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