Soccer Aid for Unicef 2021 kicks off again

Saturday: Soccer Aid for Unicef 2021; (ITV, 6.30pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Friday, 3rd September 2021, 5:00 pm

If you’re still mending your broken heart over the Euros or dabbing away tears at Lionel Messi’s scandalously swift move to Paris after his break-up with Barcelona, then chances are you need a dose of good footballing news.

Luckily this annual competition, which sees England take on the Soccer Aid World XI FC for the 10th time, has it by the bucketful.

Dermot O’Leary hosts live coverage as this charity match enjoys two firsts: kicking off on a Saturday and taking place at the Etihad Stadium.

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Touchline reporter Alex Scott and Soccer Aid host Dermot O'Leary

Wayne Rooney, who managed the England side in 2020, is coming out of retirement to join the Three Lions as a player, lining up alongside Usain Bolt, Olly Murs, Mark Wright, Paddy McGuinness, Ore Oduba, Kem Cetinay, Liv Cooke, Roman Kemp and Chunkz.

Micah Richards joins the England coaching team with David Seaman as goalkeeping coach, while Harry Redknapp returns to manage the Soccer Aid World XI FC. There will also be appearances by legends Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Kelly Smith, Roberto Carlos, Patrice Evra, David James, Emile Heskey and Jamie Redknapp.

Micah Richards could barely contain his enthusiasm about taking part, saying: “Usain Bolt running at Gary Neville? Rooney out of retirement? Me making my coaching debut. What more do you want? This is going to be so good! I can’t wait to see all the lads run out at The Etihad for such a great cause. The line-up is looking really strong and let me tell you – there are even more surprises to come.”

Rooney too is pleased to be part of the showpiece event. He said: “Pulling on an England shirt is always special, so I’m absolutely delighted to be doing that again in Soccer Aid for Unicef this September. Managing the England team last year was great but being around the players made me want to lace up the boots again. Now I’ve got that chance, one last time.”

We’re sure Gary Neville is equally as excited, as he said: “Just when I thought my days of being booed by City fans had passed! I’m hoping that my hamstrings hold out for more than five minutes, to be honest.”

Dermot O’Leary chimes in: “The game is going to be incredible this year. We’ve got a massive line-up, and we’re back-off-up-to-Manchester, albeit at a shiny new stadium, with some shiny new players to match!

“Whoever you support, England or the Soccer Aid World XI FC, it’s going to be one hell of a night at the Etihad Stadium. The money we raise really will make a huge difference to children’s lives everywhere.”

He goes on: “I’ve been so lucky to see some of the work made possible by Soccer Aid for Unicef over the years. Having recently become a Unicef UK Ambassador myself, I know how much your money and your support can help children in really tough situations be able to just be children again.

“Getting through this last year or so has been tough for all of us, but the Covid crisis is making life for children in the world’s poorest countries even harder. So, let’s bring play back!”

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