Living the Dream – My Day Playing For Everton

    What is every young lad’s dream? Asides from having superpowers, being able to blow up their school, or occasionally buy a truck load of sweets, mine was playing for Everton Football Club. As I got older my dream slowly faded, with my ever burgeoning waist-line and realisation that I wouldn’t make the journey to sign on the dotted line in the Everton chairman’s office.

    Over the years I’ve sat in the stands, at times watching players without an ounce of passion for our club, our team, our history, screaming at them in desperation for them to understand, to realise how much I would give for an ounce of their talent, to trade places and show them what desire and heart can mean. Alas it was never to be. Fate dealt me two left feet and a propensity for eating junk food.

    So I settled into a rut, sky-sports, occasional visits to Goodison and more recently internet streaming would become the standard match day fare (I was going to say Saturday fare, but that’s a whole different story). This was until I heard about FootballAid.

    For those of you who have never heard of FootballAid, it’s a company who raise money for charity (Field of Dreams). They raise the money by getting the fans of clubs to bid, pay or raise money via sponsorship, with the aim of securing a position in a 11-a-side match on your favourite team’s stadium and pitch. You in effect become a player for the day. In addition, to sweeten the deal, FootballAid organise for some of the club’s past legends to manage or play in the match – some clubs seem to be able to secure more than others, but regardless these guys have all donned the shirt in real-life, they have lived the dream. Now they take their time to help us, Mr Joe Public, to enjoy our time in centre stage. Even better, your friends and family are welcome to attend the match and watch from the stadium, they photograph it and video it from multiple angles, they even have an award ceremony after.

    So what does it entail. I was late to the party, so only a few positions were available, so I initially bid on the away team left back position (only 1st half).

    I set out early in the morning to catch the flight over from Belfast, previously having packed everything I thought I could possibly need for the game. Prior to flying over, I had informed nearly anyone who would listen, and even those who didn’t, that I was going to be playing for Everton. I explained the FootballAid experience, and jealousy set in (albeit for their respective clubs – not that many Everton supporters in Northern Ireland). The day had arrived, and sitting on the flight very early on the Tuesday morning, I nervously anticipated my Goodison debut and the day to come.

    Arriving early at the stadium, I wondered into the players entrance to be greeted by some nice Everton officials and a representative of FootballAid. After waiting for the previous game, we were ushered into one of the suites for a briefing. I took the chance to introduce myself to some of my teammates and also opponents. these guys were seasoned veterans having played in the past number of years. I was on virgin territory, slightly intimidated, but anxiously awaiting my chance to shine.

    Entering the home dressing room with my number 2 shirt hanging on the wall choked me up a bit, I wasn’t expecting that emotion. It quickly passed when I saw Stuart Barlow getting a rub down by the physio. Top bloke Stuart, true gentleman and still looks after himself – true ambassador for a great club. After warm up, back to changing room for a quick introduction and team talk, then out to Z-cars anthem.

    I could talk about a great game of football, intricate passing, slick movement and insightful cross field passes, I could talk about great goals, even better saves and chances galore – but after watching the official DVD, I could swear they recorded it in slow motion (and those people who say the TV adds pounds, so does a tight football shirt fitted for a professional footballer!). The only comparison I can make regarding the standard of the game, it was like a teenager on the first date. Both teams fumbling, not sure where to play and when to make the killer move, each probing and building hopes with not much coming to fruition.  Ultimately the game ended in a draw with a couple of cracking goals, some good saves and allot of huffing and puffing.

    I got to meet a great bunch of lads, thoroughly enjoyed myself, and left in the satisfaction that I had done a bit for charity. What more could you ask for, I strongly recommend it anyone, no matter how fit you are (or arent), great cause, great day and thanks for everything –

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