Manchester turns out in thousands for ‘bigger and better than ever’ UNICEF Soccer Aid 2012

By Ian Silvera

Gordon Ramsay’s injury, Paddy’s McGuiness’ scuffle and Serg Pizzorno’s goal, Soccer Aid was a night of high-drama as thousands of Manchester residents turned out for charity.

Soccer Aid, the footballing event that has raised more than £7.5 million pounds for UNICEF, the world’s leading children’s organisation, since its inception in 2006, transmitted live last night from Old Trafford.

Spectators packed the legendary stadium to the rafters and created a carnival atmosphere, with UNICEF UK Ambassador Robbie Williams believing it was the biggest and best so far.

He said: “Soccer Aid returned for the fourth time and with it a renewed sense of passion for this remarkable event that can help vulnerable children all around the world.

“Soccer Aid this year has been bigger and better than ever.”

Andy Dyard is used to coming to Old Trafford to watch his beloved Manchester United play, but the 29-year-old said that he was overwhelmed by the amount of support there was for Soccer Aid and UNICEF.

He said: “The whole event is such a spectacle. It’s almost like a rock concert – there’s screaming girls everywhere.”

When the crowd had chance to peel their eyes away from the frenzied action, they started a Mexican wave and some lucky fans were able to grab pictures of Manchester United and England superstar Wayne Rooney, who was in attendance.

UNICEF activist Andy Dove said it was the first time he had been to a Soccer Aid event before and he was pleased to see that so many people had turned up to support the charity.

The 28-year-old said: “Today’s great – there’s family, there’s friends and football.”

The match bought  together some of the biggest names in sport and showbiz to compete in two teams, England and Rest Of The World, for the chance to walk away with the coveted title of Soccer Aid Champion, 2012.

The game saw some draw-dropping twists and turns.

Kasabian guitarist Sergio Pizzorno scored a sublime goal from 25 metres out when the rocker lobbed England’s David Seaman who looked helplessly as the ball drifted into the top right-hand corner of his net.

Later in the game funny man Paddy McGuinness nearly took a red-blooded Gordon Ramsay out following a callous tackle on McGuiness by the scots-man. Both players were subsequently booked by no-nonsense referee Howard Webb.

The game took a turn a turn for the worse half way through the second half when Ramsay didn’t get to his feet after a strong tackle.

The 45-year-old had to be stretchered off the pitch to an appreciative ovation from the crowd.

Despite solid performances from the Rest of the World squad including Hollywood heroes Will Ferrell, Gerard Butler, Mike Myers and James McAvoy, the night was England’s.

The formidable team captained by Robbie Williams went into their changing room at half-time 1-0 down. The second half proved to be a different story.

After a stirring pep talk from actor-supremo Bradley Walsh and manager maestro Sam Allardyce, Jonathan Wilkes, Teddy Sheringham and Kevin Phillips all found the back of the net and saw off their Rest of the World rivals with a convincing 3-1 victory, much to the England supporters’ delight. 

BBC fusion chef and BMW Williams Ambassador Aazam Ahmad said he really enjoyed the night and thought it was great that such a prestigious event was being held in Manchester.

The 43-year-old added: “It’s a beautiful day, we’re in Manchester – it can’t get better than this.”

The chef who was representing BMW Williams at a ceremony with the Olympic torch before Soccer Aid kicked-off had bought 18 tickets for all his family and friends.

Like Mr Ahmad, it was Mohammed Mayat’s first Soccer Aid and the Leeds resident was really pleased that his money was going to a great cause.

The 28-year-old said: “I was really excited for the game.

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