Jimmy helps others thanks to Soccer Aid

Friday: James Nesbitt: A Game of Two Halves; (ITV, 8pm)
Unicef UK Ambassador Jimmy Nesbitt at a Makhani childrens’ centre, Za’atari refugee camp in Northern JordanUnicef UK Ambassador Jimmy Nesbitt at a Makhani childrens’ centre, Za’atari refugee camp in Northern Jordan
Unicef UK Ambassador Jimmy Nesbitt at a Makhani childrens’ centre, Za’atari refugee camp in Northern Jordan

We’ve just had the longest-ever football season thanks to coronavirus, and the new set of fixtures are set to begin in just over a week’s time.

In fact, some teams are already back in action – the Carabao Cup kicked off in late August.

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So it seems the nation is going football crazy all over again – if it ever stopped.

And now James Nesbitt is getting in on the act. Well, sort of. The Cold Feet star is taking part in this spin-off from Soccer Aid, the competition dreamed up by Unicef ambassador Robbie Williams in 2006.

The initial idea was simple – an all-star England squad comprised of 12 celebrities and six former professionals would take on a Rest of the World XI.

In the 14 years since then, it’s become a major fundraising event, bringing in millions for the global charity.

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Later this month, the 2020 fixture is set to take place at Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, albeit behind closed doors.

This year’s teams of celebrities and former professional footballers will ‘Play for Generation Covid’, to help stop the spread of coronavirus and limit the impact on children’s lives.

Every £1 donated until 6 October 2020 will become £3, thanks to the UK government and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

“The work of Unicef and the rest of the Vaccine Alliance keeping immunisation going in the world’s most vulnerable countries has never been more important,” says Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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“Covid-19 is disrupting vaccine programmes across the world, risking the resurgence of deadly diseases like measles and polio.

“That’s why this year’s Soccer Aid for Unicef is so vital, raising funds to help us continue to protect children from deadly diseases. It will also help Gavi and Unicef ensure Covid-19 vaccines are available to the poorest countries. As long as this disease is circulating anywhere it remains a threat everywhere.”

Nesbitt has been a Unicef UK ambassador for some time and is also a massive fan of the aforementioned Manchester United, so Soccer Aid is particularly close to his heart. In the past, he’s reported from across the globe in a bid to raise awareness of the organisation’s work – and now he’s doing it again.

In this moving documentary, he learns how the £38million raised by the Soccer Aid matches to date has helped children around the world. He’s also seen delivering essential supplies to youngsters in such remote locations as the Himalayas in Nepal, the desert surrounding the Dead Sea and a remote South Pacific island.

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To make matters even more difficult, he has no idea where he’s heading until the day he sets off. Filming took place as the global lockdown began to take effect, which had a dramatic impact on his epic journey – but it also reveals just how important Unicef’s humanitarian work really is to those whose lives it helps to save and keep safe every day.

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