Last Sunday saw over 70,000 football fans flock to Old Trafford for a game like no other: Soccer Aid. Every two years, this highly anticipated event brings two unlikely teams together in a match where there’s no real prize, but one sole aim – to raise as much money as possible for Unicef. And given this event took place just a stone’s throw from our Manchester HQ, we thought we’d take a closer look at what makes it such an important occasion in the fundraising calendar.
Over the last 12 years, Soccer Aid has raised over £24 million for Unicef – a worldwide charity is committed to saving children in danger across developing countries. They rely heavily on fundraising to make a real, measurable difference – and Soccer Aid plays a huge part in that. This year’s event saw the highest ever attendance, and ticket sales combined with generous donations to result in a record-breaking total of £5.5 million.
2018 Soccer Aid didn’t just see an incredible amount of donations – it saw an incredible mixture of sporting legends and celebrities grace the pitch. No doubt, the most eagerly awaited was Eric Cantona – known affectionately as King Eric by United supporters – as he returned to Old Trafford after 21 years. The crowd went wild when he made his grand comeback in the second half – with an applause hitting the stadium every time he took control of the ball. He’s seen as one of the finest sportsman to wear a red shirt – having earned the title of five-time English champion, four of which were for Manchester United. But it’s not just footballers who are invited to play at the Theatre of Dreams – the star-studded match was graced by long-distance runner Mo Farah; celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay; comedians Lee Mack and Paddy McGuiness; and of course, chart-topping popstar Olly Murs – having been a strong advocate for Soccer Aid ever since it began.
Another part of what makes the match unique is that it pits England against the rest of the world – making it a real global event uniting players from across the world in the name of sport and charity. Team England was headed up by Robbie Williams, and Team Rest of the World by record-breaking sprinter Usain Bolt – dubbed as the fastest man in the world. But they weren’t the only stars of the match. Michael Owen is certainly worthy of a mention – scoring a late equaliser for England to take the thrilling encounter to 3-3 and to penalties. Then there’s Blake Harrison – or as most people know him as, Neil from BAFTA-winning comedy The Inbetweeners. While he was the punchline of jokes in the programme, he certainly wasn’t on the pitch – leading the England team to victory after scoring the winning penalty in a tense shoot-out. It’s unlikely this moment will be forgotten about by fans any time soon.
What certainly won’t be forgotten about is the £5.5 million raised. For every pound raised by Soccer Aid, the government pledged to double it – just like PHMG does when we reach our yearly fundraising target for the PHMG Foundation. And like Unicef, we’re dedicated to changing young lives for the better – proudly supporting Action For Children and the SOS Children’s Villages in Illinois. We’re excited to see what’s in store for Soccer Aid in 2020 – and what’s in store for our charitable initiative too.