Lee Mack kicks off his Road to Soccer Aid
In 2006, pop singer Robbie Williams and former Newcastle United chairman Freddy Shepherd organised a rather special series of football matches.
Played out between 22nd and 27th of May, it saw a Rest of the World side take on England in 60-minute practice games, before a showpiece Soccer Aid event which saw the home side win 2-1 in front of a crowd of more than 71,000 people. All profits, including donations and sponsorship, were given to UNICEF programmes in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
Initially held every two years, Soccer Aid became an annual event in 2018, and has raised a whopping £38 million to date.
Over the years, Robbie has moved from player to captain to coach, while legends taking part have included Eric Cantona, Roy Keane and Zinedine Zidane, while Jose Mourhino, Kenny Dalgleish, and Claudio Ranieri have lined up among the managers.
As you may have gathered by now, it is no small tournament. Will Ferrell, Michael Sheen, Gordon Ramsay, James McAvoy and Jeremy Renner are among the celebrity participants and take it every bit as seriously as their day job.
We’re reminded of Bill Shankly’s legendary quip: “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I don’t like that attitude. I can assure them it is much more serious than that.”
It’s worth keeping that in mind while watching this charming documentary, which follows Lee Mack’s hilarious and surprisingly emotional journey to get match fit, improve his technique and banish his footballing demons in the hope that he will score at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on 4th September.
After three penalty misses in three consecutive Soccer Aid matches, Lee has his work cut out and has decided to pull up his socks and pull out all the stops to make Soccer Aid 2021.
Along the way, the comedian meets some famous friends, experts and sporting legends to help him achieve his dream, and asks them to sponsor him, which results in a few unexpected challenges for Lee.
Of course, there’s a serious side to the programme, which will also explore how children around the world have benefitted from the generosity of the Soccer Aid audience as Lee finds out more about the lives that have been changed by the extraordinary work of UNICEF.
This year, Soccer Aid aims to help the charity deliver two billion vaccines for frontline health workers and teachers.
As if that wasn’t challenge enough, it also aims to help children worldwide get back to school, recover from malnutrition and get the healthcare they need today as well as long after the crisis is over.
The Soccer Aid website says: “Covid-19 is devastating children’s lives. It’s the biggest global crisis since World War Two and it’s left more children at greater risk than ever before. Shutting down their schools. Overwhelming healthcare services they rely on. Destroying their families’ livelihoods. Disrupting medical and food supplies and pushing millions more children into hunger.”
Here’s hoping Lee is among the famous faces who get to persuade us to make a difference.
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