Soccer Aid for UNICEF has announced the first set of players who will take part in September’s behind-closed-doors game at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United.

The programme, being produced by Initial, will be broadcast exclusively live on ITV and STV. The exact date and time of the programme will be announced in due course.

Comedian Jason Manford, rapper Santan Dave and Manchester United legend Patrice Evra will all make their debuts for the Soccer Aid World XI FC. Kelly Smith MBE – who was capped over 100 times for England and represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Summer Olympics – is also playing for the first time. Goalkeeper David James, a Premier League stalwart, will join Kelly in representing England.

The Three Lions’ ranks have been boosted further with Joe Wicks confirming that he will play. Meanwhile, Olly Murs returns to the fold following the knee surgery which ruled him out of the 2019 match. Kem Cetinay, who scored a wondergoal at last year’s Stamford Bridge clash, is also returning to pull on the Soccer Aid World XI FC shirt once again.

ITV family favourite Dermot O'Leary will present the live show with Kirsty Gallagher returning as pitch side reporter.
Soccer Aid for Unicef is the world’s biggest celebrity football match, raising money to give children the best start in life.

Around the world, coronavirus is disrupting everything – it’s closing schools, stopping children getting vital vaccines, and making life in disaster zones tougher than ever. A whole generation of children are in danger.

Soccer Aid for Unicef will help stop the spread of coronavirus and limit the impact on children’s lives. This year, for the first-time in the match’s history, the UK government and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, will both match public donations to Soccer Aid for Unicef, meaning every £1 donated becomes £3 – up to £3 million – until 6 Oct 2020.

Since 2006, Soccer Aid for Unicef has raised over £38m to help give children all over the world a childhood full of play. Soccer Aid for Unicef 2019 raised a record breaking £7.9m.

International Development Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “It’s great to see some of England’s top players returning to the pitch next month, alongside stars and athletes, to raise much-needed donations for Unicef. I’m looking forward to tuning in and cheering them on! Vulnerable children and families around the world are facing an unprecedented global crisis in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m immensely proud that with the UK Government and Gavi’s support, we will be tripling donations from the public to support them.”

Dermot O’Leary said: “I’m thrilled to be back hosting this year’s Soccer Aid for Unicef match. It’s always a pleasure to be involved in such a great cause. It will be a little different this year with no crowds in the stadium but fans can still tune in on ITV and hopefully we’ll raise even more money to improve children’s lives around the world. It’s also going to be a whole lot of fun and hopefully bring a little light relief in these strange times.”

Olly Murs said: “I am buzzing that Soccer Aid for Unicef is back! It couldn’t be more important to get the game on this year and to make it a massive success. We are playing for ‘Generation Covid’ and the children around the world who will be affected by this awful virus. I know that you can’t come and see us in the stadium, but you can still donate and, this year, your donation is three times more valuable. The UK Government and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance are matching every pound raised, up to £3 million until 6th October – so, a £1 donation becomes £3, which is just incredible. We have the chance to make this year’s match one of our most successful ever. I can’t wait to get going!”

Joe Wicks said: “When you get the call up to play for the England side at the Soccer Aid for Unicef match, it’s impossible to say no! It’s an amazing experience to play with some of football’s biggest legends and this years’ game is going to be particularly special. We know we are playing to help Unicef’s vital work to help stop coronavirus making life even tougher for vulnerable children around the world. You can play your part too by watching the match and donating – and knowing that every pound donated automatically becomes three, thanks to the UK Government and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.”

Kelly Smith MBE said: “It’s an honour to be asked to play in Soccer Aid for Unicef. I was delighted to see female players playing in the game for the first time last year and now I get my chance to pull on the England shirt again. I loved representing the Lionesses during my career and I’m really looking forward to doing it again at Old Trafford. It’s fantastic that we’re able to get the game back on and help Unicef stop coronavirus making life even tougher for vulnerable children and families around the world. I’d urge people to watch the show because together we’re playing for generation covid and raising vital funds in the process.”

Patrice Evra said: “I can’t wait to get back to Old Trafford, my home-from-home! It will be a strange experience to play at that amazing stadium without the fans, but I am really proud to be involved and that we’re able to still put on a show for the millions of people who will be watching at home. We know that you’ll be with us all in spirit. It’s really important we can play this match because not only does it give people something to look forward to, but it’s a chance for us all to help Unicef stop the spread of coronavirus and limit the impact on children’s lives.”

Yaya Touré said: “I am really looking forward to playing in Soccer Aid again and returning to Manchester. I loved playing last time and it was fantastic to see such a huge amount of money raised to help Unicef. This year, it is even more important that we put on a good show to help Unicef fight against coronavirus, which has affected children around the world. I am looking forward to seeing some of my old friends, wearing the Soccer Aid World XI FC shirt and hopefully keeping the title.”

This year’s teams of celebrities and former professional footballers will ‘Play for Generation Covid’, to help stop the spread of coronavirus and limit the impact on children’s lives. At a time when Generation Covid desperately need Unicef’s support, it will bring the nation together in their living rooms, through their TV sets, to help Unicef provide everything from clean water to lifesaving vaccinations.

As supporters will be unable to attend this year’s game, anyone who has already purchased tickets for the original match, through official Manchester United ticketing channels, will automatically receive a full refund which will be processed from Monday 17 August (and may take up to 7 days to complete). Alternatively, ticket holders are being encouraged to consider donating the value of their ticket and make triple the impact to Unicef – a £20 donation becomes £60 thanks to the UK government and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. An email on how to make this donation has been sent to all ticket holders.

Soccer Aid for Unicef will air exclusively on ITV and STV in September.

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