The general consensus might be that England’s chances of winning the World Cup are all but non-existent, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still celebrate the beautiful game.
And what better way to begin the Brazilian-based action this summer than by watching a host of famous faces take to the pitch for Soccer Aid?
The biennial match in aid of children’s organisation Unicef, is the brainchild of one of its ambassadors – pop star Robbie Williams – and since its debut in 2006 has raised more than £12m for the charity.
“This was a wish I had in my bedroom one morning, and look at it now,” says 40-year-old Williams. “Being able to do what I love, playing football with some of the world’s best players, while at the same time raising money for Unicef to help save children’s lives, is absolutely incredible.”
On the day itself – Sunday, June 8 – Dermot O’Leary will host live from Manchester United’s home of Old Trafford, where singer Katherine Jenkins will open the football extravaganza, while Caroline Flack keeps viewers updated on Unicef donations live from London’s BT Tower.
“One memory that will stay with me for a long time is my trip to Mexico with Unicef in 2012, to meet some of the children who are helped by the money raised. It was just before I became a father myself and that made it even more emotional for me,” says Williams, whose wife Ayda is currently expecting again. “Seeing what a difference the money can make really brought home to me the real reason we’re all out on that pitch.”
THE ENGLAND TEAM
Manager: West Ham United’s Sam Allardyce
Captain (and assistant manager): Robbie Williams
Squad celebs: Comedian Jack Whitehall, True Blood’s Stephen Moyer, actor Dominic Cooper, presenter Marvin Humes, singer Olly Murs, McFly’s Danny Jones, comedian John Bishop, singer Jonathan Wilkes, singer Mark Owen and presenters Jamie Theakston, Paddy McGuinness and Ben Shephard.
Squad footie legends: Jamie Redknapp, Jamie Carragher, David Seaman, Teddy Sheringham, Des Walker and Matt Le Tissier.
Words from the captain.Robbie Williams’ advice for his fellow team members is: “Listen to Big Sam and follow his lead, he is our leader and our hero.”
He added: “It’s hard to describe the feeling when you walk out onto the Theatre of Dreams, hear the roar from the crowd, and line up next to football legends who you remember watching as a kid. It’s both terrifying and thrilling.”
Any final words of wisdom for the newcomers? “Enjoy the experience,” Williams says. “And try and keep your ankles out of Gordon Ramsay’s way!”
THE REST OF THE WORLD TEAM
Manager: Chelsea FC’s Jose Mourinho
Captain: Michael Sheen
Squad celebs: Actors James McAvoy, Jeremy Renner, Martin Compston and Santiago Cabrera, chef Gordon Ramsay, Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, comedians Patrick Kielty and Kevin Bridges, Avatar star Sam Worthington, presenter Adam Richman and Glee actor Mark Salling.
Squad footie legends: Andriy Shevchenko, Edwin van der Sar, Alessandro Del Piero, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Jaap Stam.
Words from the captain.
Welsh actor Michael Sheen returns to lead the Rest Of The World squad, and can’t wait to settle the score following the team’s defeat two years ago. “After the disappointment of 2012, the Rest Of The World team will be desperate to take back the Soccer Aid trophy,” “If you take a look at some of the names on our team sheet, it’s a who’s who of football legends, so we definitely have the quality to win this year,” he adds.
Like Williams, he can’t wait to experience the “rush” of walking onto the pitch at Old Trafford and lining up with some of the greats of the football world. “It’s every boy’s dream,” says Sheen. “I’m also looking forward to renewing rivalries with Robbie, but arguably, best of all is knowing the difference that this game of football makes.
SOCCER AID, ITV1, SUNDAY, 6pm