Soccer Ed. Where Champions League winners rub shoulders with breakfast show hosts. Where some of the game’s biggest names share a pitch with some of reality TV’s most forgettable. Where the terms ‘celebrity’ and ‘World XI’ are used in the loosest sense.
The charity match which raises huge sums of money for UNICEF returns to Old Trafford for its ninth iteration on Sunday night but behind closed doors. Between the awkward first touch and the expected bout of heavy breathing, the event has been nothing short of memorable moments in its 14-year history…
Ben Shepherd has been involved in all but one of the Soccer Aid matches to date/Andrew Reddington/Getty Images
Red cards are not a common sight in charity matches but television presenter Ben Shepherd achieved the tough honor of becoming the first man to be sent off in a Soccer Aid match in 2016.
While Shepherd took his marching orders without fuss, former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel expressed dismay at the events in the ITV studio, saying it was ‘out of order’.
“These guys like Edgar Davids and Ronaldinho they come here, travel a long way and play nothing,” the Great Dane fumed, as quoted by Sports Joe.
“You don’t treat anybody like that and it’s bad, bad behaviour. It’s not the first time Ben Shepherd has done it. He did the opposite. [Diego] Maradona three times 10 years ago.
We’re sure @lewis_damian remembers it well ?? pic.twitter.com/6lQzFKbm9O
— SoccerAid (@socceraid) April 20, 2020
Weeks before the 2010 World Cup, the previous tournament’s Golden Ball winner got his boots back for the rest of the World XI.
Zinedine Zidane – who barely broke a sweat throughout the 90 minutes – peppered the evening with several nuggets of amazing skill.
None more provocative than actor Damian Lewis’ nutmeg.
In 2012, Kasabian guitarist Serge Pizzorno – already renowned for his Soccer AM skills – scored the perfect goals to secure a Soccer Aid match – and against David Seaman no less.
Admittedly, the former Arsenal and England great was 48 at the time, but Pizzorno capitalized on his notorious weakness with lobs, using his body to almost scoop the ball over a stranded seaman. Opened.
Before Shepherd left for an early shower, Ronaldinho found time to stick the ball between the presenter’s legs while looking the other way.
It may have seemed like an unfair match – Ronaldinho had only left to play for Flamengo in Brazil’s top flight a year ago – but the full-back icon capped the move by nutmeging Phil Neville seconds later. Made even better.
In the event’s first season at Chelsea FC’s home – Stamford Bridge – club icon John Terry made his soccer ad debut in 2019.
However, with seven minutes to play, Eric Cantona headed home Low Island’s winner Kem Cetinay (a phrase that only applies in the fictional realm of charity football). The reality TV star’s first touch took him past Terry with ease before Cetane – a lifelong Arsenal fan – curled a left-footed shot into the net to take the match to penalties.
#TBT from @Jonny_Wilkes vs @esdavids in 2014! ? pic.twitter.com/JH3wBDkrOj
— Soccer Aid (@socceraid) June 2, 2016
The ego batting of Jonathan Wilkes and Edgar Davids showed that – despite the charitable atmosphere the game is played in – the match is still very competitive.
Wilkes – an entertainer who supposedly played for Everton as a teenager – clashed with Davids. The 1995 Champions League winner with Ajax tangled with Wilkes on several occasions during charity events, living up to the nickname Louis van Gaal gave him as a player, ‘The Pitbull’.
So José Mourinho is back doing @socceraid but this time managing the England team…..no tackles please gaffer???? pic.twitter.com/dqsY1b5HTm
— Olly Murs (@ollymurs) April 20, 2016
Jose Mourinho’s first step out of the Old Trafford technical area was back in 2004, when he charged down the touchline to celebrate with his Porto team as they knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League.
Ten years later and Mourinho – manager of the Rest of the World XI – crossed the white line again, this time tackling England’s Ollie Murs.
However, as revealed by actor Michael Sheen – who started the match with a broken elbow on Mourinho’s right back – the Portuguese tactician stepped onto the turf to prevent Mers from potentially injuring the Welshman. He was going to be in the movie next week.
As Sheen admitted, the act was ‘Mourinho possibly saving my career’.