Almost twelve months ago just short of 300 spectators, Birtley Town, Ryton and Crawcrook Albion and a motley assortment of Northern League supporters, bloggers, broadcasters and people who get paid to write about football came together by the Angel of the North to raise money for a non-league team in coastal Japan. The result was Northern Leagues United (what happened in the actual game doesn’t matter, if only because the writers lost 6-3 after the fans’ team snapped up a load of ringers and…deep breath, let it go). Last month Cobaltore Onagawa played their opening game of the 2012 Tohoku League season, winning 5-0 in front of a club record crowd of 520 people.
From north-east Japan back to north-east England. This year’s game is in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, a charity which raises funds to help defeat cancer. On Sunday May 20th two teams – one of football bloggers, the other made up of newspaper journalists and sports broadcasters – will meet at Hebburn Town. Kick off is 1.30pm. Admission is £3 for adults and £1 for concessions with every penny raised from gate receipts and raffle tickets going to the SBR Foundation.
Over the next week or so we’ll be introducing the two squads of players who will be taking part in the game. Most, like The Mirror‘s Simon Bird and Chris Smith from the Newcastle United blog Leazes Terrace, are local. Others, such as last year’s goal hero Ryan Hubbard, are travelling from various parts of the country, with Ryan so desperate to improve on that result at Birtley he’s given up a day’s pay just to chase overhit passes from Jak Penny and Ian Cusack. As with England’s Euro 2012 squad we won’t be the most talented group ever assembled, but unlike the stars of the Premier League we can at least guarantee sweat, tears and several dozen mistimed kicks to the shins.
What can you do to help? If you’re a fan, turn out and watch (Hebburn Metro Station is a five-minute walk from the Hebburn Sports Complex (NE31 1UN) and there are bar facilities and parking at the ground). If you have a blog, website, Twitter or Facebook account, help spread the word. If you’re playing, bring friends and family along with you and fill in the details below (emails to email@example.com) to help with the matchday programme.
What are you looking forward to most from this year’s game?:
What’s your memory of last year’s game (if applicable)?
See you on May 20th!