FANS are demanding that Francis Benali is given a knighthood after raising almost £1m for charity.

An online petition to the Home Office is gaining momentum having being signed by thousands of “Iron Fran” supporters.

With more than 2,500 signatures they believe that the retired footballer deserves to be recognised for his “amazing” fundraising efforts.

Hundreds of enthusiastic fans crammed into Southampton Guildhall square on Sunday night to give the Saints legend a welcome fit for a hero.

Music pounded and the atmosphere was electric as a huge crowd of the city’s residents waited patiently for the former full-back to cross the finish line of his IronFran challenge.

Franny and his loyal team cycled past the Civic Centre and onto the square through a funnel of cheering and chanting.

After speeches from him and his daughter Kenzie, fans flocked around him for the chance to take photos and autographs.

The challenge entailed seven triathlons in seven consecutive days, with each day being made up of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle and a 26.2-mile run, and so far, he has raised £962,800 for Cancer Research UK.

Franny, who fans at the weekend described as “humble, said: “It is very kind of people to suggest or even petition a knighthood. But, it is just something that I wanted to take on to raise money supporting a fantastic charity that touches so many of us and to find the boundaries that challenge me personally.”

Redbridge resident, Tracy Cutler, who set-up the petition said: “Even though I do not know Franny personally, I’m a fan of Southampton FC and appreciate the super-human efforts of this man. I have watched his progress and am in total awe of him and his achievements.”

Throughout the series of triathlons, the retired footballer let nothing stop him, defying all odds and medical advice to complete the last leg of seven triathlons.

He ran the Southampton Marathon on Sunday morning and was joined by a team of cyclists at the Cenotaph for the final 112-miles of his “epic” journey.

With legs pumping, the route took him through the heart of the New Forest with stops at Boldre, Beaulieu and Lyndhurst and back to Southampton Guildhall.

A rollercoaster of ups and downs, Franny was left “devastated” after having to drop out of the fifth day and sixth days of his challenge. It was instead completed by his support team, family and friends while he travelled alongside them in a vehicle to cheer them on.

It is not the first time Franny has done charity fundraiser activities. In 2014 he ran between every Premier League ground in the country, running for 21 consecutive days to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

Not content with that he then went on to run and cycle to every Premier League and Championship club covering 1,400 miles in just two weeks, running a marathon then cycling at least 75 miles every day.

According to Franny he was absolutely delighted to complete his challenge and described the reception from fans as amazing.

He now plans to spend time relaxing and with his family.

The suggestion for a knighthood was also put forward back in 2014 by Southampton resident and Echo reader, Michael Harbut, who said: “It would be nice to think he could receive suitable recognition. We all know that not all very worthy people receive their deserved recognition. Only in our dreams will we witness arise Sir Francis.”

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