SoccerAid, the charity football friendly arranged by Robbie Williams, returned last night for its third instalment, and ripe entertainment it was too.
The first half of the match was relatively entertaining, if standard fare, with some sharp performances from a collection of ex-pros (Jamie Redknapp, Teddy Sheringham, Alan Shearer), decent contributions from some evidently handy celebs (Olly Murs, Ralf Little, Damien Lewis) and, most notably, a languid masterclass from Zinedine Zidane, who made every touch look so easy.
The real fun, predictably, came from the less orthodox celebrities drafted in to up the interest levels. A bulbous Mike Myers was surprisingly adept, yet unsurprisingly immobile. Woody Harrelson (reported last week to have been joining in games at random on Battersea Park) elected not to show up in the guise of White Men Can’t Jump‘s tanned, lithe wise-cracker Billy Hoyle, but rather Kingpin‘s bemused, one-handed bowler Roy Munson. And while White Men Can’t Jump, the makers of SoccerAid seemed to surmise that Black People Couldn’t Play Football, for Henrik Larsson aside, the token presence was Brian Lara, who gave us one defence-splitting pass and one almighty shank – the kind that gets worse and worse every time you watch the replay. In a neat piece of simultaneous programming, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones was suffering a similar alienation over on Channel 4’s ‘Cameron’s Black Tory’, although he didn’t have two-fifths of Westlife and The Mentalist to cheer him up. There was a laughable performance from Heroes’ James Kyson Lee, whose sole contribution was to throw-in a corner, and Paddy McGuinness, host of Take Me Out, did some taking out of his own, allegedly decapitating a small child sat in Row Z with a genuine three-pointer.
As the second half progressed, and the game edged toward extra time, the surrealism levels cranked up and the whole affair seemed to veer into Mulholland Drive territory. When Ben Shepherd left Zidane on his arse with the cleanest tackle seen since Elton John’s wedding night, and rose with the ball, granite-faced, as if it was the most normal thing ever, I expected the match to disappear into a blue box and re-emerge replaced by a dissolute, crying Theakston furiously masturbating in a dressing gown, while a filthy, bearded Murs leapt out from behind a wheelie-bin.
But, alas, and as destined, this was all about Woody. His shanked, toe-punted, matchwinning penalty and subsequent thousand-yard stare reminded us that football is a funny old game indeed. And SoccerAid was the best thing I’ve seen on TV in ages.