There’s fever pitch at Soccer Aid for Unicef

Sunday: Soccer Aid for Unicef - (ITV, 6.30pm)
Soccer Aid presenter Dermot O'Leary and pitch-side reporter Alex ScottSoccer Aid presenter Dermot O'Leary and pitch-side reporter Alex Scott
Soccer Aid presenter Dermot O'Leary and pitch-side reporter Alex Scott

Will Robbie Williams go down in history for being part of (and leaving) Take That?

For his belting live performance of Angels on Top of the Pops all those years ago, or for signing a $156m record contract in 2002? Or will it be for founding this annual competition that raises money to give kids in some of the toughest places in the world the best start in life?

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On balance, it’s probably going to be the music, but considering this event has developed into world’s biggest celebrity football match over the years, it’s worth giving Stoke-on-Trent’s most beloved son a hearty pat on the back for Soccer Aid.

If you’re new to the football competition (and if so, where have you been?), an all-star line-up takes to the pitch to represent England, as they take on an equally celebrity-packed World XI. With us so far? Good.

This year is a big one for England, as they’ve been walloped for the past three meetings by the opposition and will be out to prevent a fourth loss. Spare a thought for former One Direction Liam Payne: not only is this match his debut, he’s also got the dubious honour of being captain.

While there’s no word on whether ex-band mate Harry Styles or former girlfriend Cheryl will be in the stands cheering Liam on, his team-mates will include veteran footballers Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and Teddy Sheringham, alongside actors David Harewood and Damian Lewis, and, making history as the first disabled player to participate in Soccer Aid, comedian Alex Brooker.

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They will face a World XI featuring small and unimportant figures such as Usain Bolt and Cafu.

For those who don’t know much about sport, they’re the former fastest man in the world and the most internationally capped Brazilian player of all time, respectively. Ahem.

Rounding out the squad will be Line of Duty’s Martin Compston and comedian Mo Gilligan, while Arsene Wenger and Robbie Keane will be doing all the shouting from the sidelines as the management team.

Offering England encouragement will be Harry Redknapp, David Seaman and Emma Hayes.

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Away from the turf, Unicef UK Ambassador Dermot O’Leary will be presenting all the action, alongside pundit Maya Jama, while pitchside reports will come courtesy of Alex Scott. And of course, Robbie himself will be entertaining us all at half time.

Let’s not forget though, there’s a serious side to all the fun, and Soccer Aid doesn’t just have famous faces falling over their own feet on the football pitch. It also rolls out some fairly big guns to recount the stories of children affected by poverty, war and the impact of climate change and Covid.

Alesha Dixon tells us about Badsha, who lives on the streets of Bangladesh, and shows how Unicef set-up emergency shelters to make sure that children like him have somewhere safe to eat, learn, play and sleep.

Olivia Colman introduces a family who have lived through seven years of war in Yemen, and Olly Murs reveals how children and young people across the world have had their lives transformed through the power of sport.

Soccer Aid is more than just about football and fame. It’s about making a difference.

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