Legends & Celebs Limber Up For Soccer Aid 2008

Posted on: 04 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Soccer Aid's stars talk to 50connect ahead of the big kick off on Sunday.

Soccer Aid returns for 2008 and will be taking centre stage at football’s most famous ground, Wembley Stadium.

The charity match which raised £2.6 million in aid of UNICEF in 2006 will feature England against The Rest of the World with teams comprising of celebrities and World Cup legends.

This year’s star performers have given 50connect readers a sneak preview into their preparations for the big match on Sunday, 7th September.

GMTV favourite Ben Shephard is taking Soccer Aid very seriously, so much so he has enlisted the help of a local football and rugby team, his boxing friends and his two kids to help him get fit for the game. 

“Having toddlers is enough to get you fit, a game of hide and seek with my three-year-old is like doing a bleep test - it doesn’t stop and is very tiring!”

Still humbled by the 2006 Soccer Aid tournament, Ben admits being managed by Terry Venables and playing alongside football greats such as Maradona, Gazza and Gianfranco Zola was an ‘extraordinary experience’ and ‘every school boy's dream’. 

"When I first walked into the changing room and saw an England shirt with my name on the back it sent tingles down my spine. But walking out on the pitch at Old Trafford on match day and seeing 72,000 people made me realise how huge this event has become, it was really quite emotional.”

“Walking out onto that pitch is actually really overwhelming. One thing you have to get your head around is the noise. You can’t explain how noisy it is on the pitch with the crowd, it’s so loud that you can’t hear your team mates stood 10 yards away.”

Ex-goalkeeper David Seaman is back again to join the England team hoping to win for the second time running, but knows it won’t be easy.

David Seaman“I don’t see why England can’t win again although I think the Rest of the World pose more of a threat this year to be honest.”

David has some great memories from the 2006 Soccer Aid tournament but his personal highlight wasn’t even on the pitch.

“My best memory was standing in the tunnel before the game with Robbie Williams. I was cool as a cucumber; I had the three lions on my chest, it was like playing for England but without the pressure. But Robbie was completely out of his comfort zone, he’s fine to play a concert and sing for thousands of people but he was terrified in the tunnel!”

David has played many a game at Wembley Stadium but is very excited about returning. 

“I’m so excited - it’s my only chance to play at the new Wembley. When I was at Wembley Arena with the Dancing on Ice tour I went to have a look round and I took my son to the FA Cup final there and it’s really impressive. The old stadium held so many memories for me of winning cup finals and climbing those famous steps to get to the trophy.”

David knows before any match you need to be prepared and in good shape but has a novel preparation method.

“I’ll be salmon fishing in Scotland the week before the game which should get me relaxed.”

“I’m doing some goalkeeping coaching before the game so hopefully that should help as well. I know it will be just as competitive this time around. Everyone will want to win; the sportsmen have that natural instinct and the celebrities won’t want to embarrass themselves!”

The legendary Scot Kenny Dalglish is spearheading team Rest of the World this year and believes with a bit of grit and determination he can lead them to victory.

Kenny Dalglish“The game was close in 2006 so I don’t see why we can’t win this year. I think the main thing with Soccer Aid is keeping people entertained! As much as I want to win, I think if we’ve entertained the people who’ve come along to watch we’ll have done our job.”

Kenny knows mixing a team of celebrities and professionals has its challenges but he has a few tips on who might win the Man of the Match, and surprisingly he ranks some of his celebrity players.

“Gordon Ramsay and Nicky Byrne look fit which is great for the Rest of the World. I think everyone, the pros and celebrities will just be aiming to keep their reputation and not embarrass themselves!”

“I will be getting Gordon to cook a pre-match meal for the team!”

Alastair Campbell returns again to play for The Rest of The World team in this year’s Soccer Aid tournament and has a novel highlight from the previous game.

“My highlight from 2006 was playing the bagpipes in the dressing room before the start of the match. Watching Maradona, Zola and Ginola dancing around to that was surreal!”

He had some rivals last time around but his biggest rival Jamie Redknapp is playing again, and it seems they have a score to settle.

Alistair Campbell“Jamie Redknapp was my biggest rival last time. He was always going on at me for playing for the Rest of the World’s team when I was born in England. But blood is thicker than water - he should know that.”

Alastair is determined not to embarrass his sons with his performance on the pitch but confesses that a couple of injuries sustained earlier this year might hold him back.

“I am match fit up to a point. I'm 51 and beginning to feel it and I have had a stack of injuries this year. The worst has been a bad injury to my shoulder which meant I was unable to do any triathlon events this summer because I could not do the swimming part. But I have been doing a lot of cycling, and using the holidays to play football with my sons, who are hopeful I won't embarrass them as much as apparently I did at Old Trafford!”

“Wembley is a beautiful stadium, and if the buzz walking out is anything like it was at Old Trafford, it will be an unforgettable experience.”

In typical laid back style Patrick Kielty’s preparation for this year’s Soccer Aid hasn’t exactly been strenuous. Patrick’s tactic: a bit of good old fashioned rest and relaxation.

“I’m barely fit enough to climb up the stand to sit and watch the game! I’m far from match fit. I’ve tried to do a couple of press-ups and a little bit of jogging on the spot, but the game’s at the start of September, and like everyone else I’ll be lying on a beach in August.”

The comedian got involved with Soccer Aid after having his sporting prowess recognised by Soccer Aid producer David Staite.

“He realised how bad a player I was. So he thought to himself ‘I need someone really rubbish to play for The Rest of The World so England can win’ and that’s why I got the call!  Funnily enough England won last time so I must have done something right.”

Patrick KitelyPatrick’s real contribution is in a more off-the-pitch capacity, although confident in his qualities as reserve goalkeeper Kielty believes his real role lies in team entertainment.

“My role is this; because I live on the King’s Road, where the team’s hotel is, they have me on the team in order to get into nightclubs.  My job isn’t in the footballing capacity; my job is to sort out the guest list for Boujis.  Trust me, that’s my only contribution.  It’s not a bad one, last time round David Ginola and I didn’t make it to bed until quarter to six two nights before the game! We’re hoping to take it almost as seriously this time around.”

Far from being intimidated by some of the more fiery players on the pitch, Kielty is relishing the prospect of a competitive atmosphere.

Patrick believes playing alongside Gordon Ramsay may bring a tactical advantage.

“If you're Irish, telling someone to f**k off is the same as asking “how you doing?” There maybe some shrinking violets that are scared of Gordon’s language, but when Gordon tells me to f**k off I can just tell him to f**k off back, so it’s great. We’re developing it into a cunning plan to fool the English side; it’ll literally be, “and now we go over to the Rest of the World team for their pre-match talk...beep, beep, beep, beep... they’re not going to be able to work out our tactics!”

For squad and match details see www.50connect.co.uk/sport/veterans/soccer_aid_2008.

Soccer Aid takes place on Sunday 7th September at Wembley Stadium. Tickets are still available from www.itv.com/socceraid or by calling 0871 230 7148.

The match will be screened live on ITV1 AT 7.30pm.

Web Links

For more information on how Soccer Aid will benefit UNICEF and its partners and how the public can get involved in football fundraising, visit www.unicef.org.uk/socceraid.

For more information about Wembley Stadium please visit www.wembleystadium.com.

Wembley Stadium is easy to reach by public transport. For information about getting to Wembley please visit www.wembleystadium.com/gettingtowembley.

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