FIFTY-six teams, 28 hours of five-a-side and the memory of a local soldier lost last year to the war in Afghanistan.
While most people around Killamarsh Sports Centre were sleeping last night, tired limbs were being roused for a game of football as Beighton Magpies sought to honour former player Corp Liam Riley with a football marathon.
And it was apt that another soldier, Sgt Chris Nicholson from Gleadless, should score the first goal in the opening 30-minute game of the day, which brought teams of both sexes and all ages from the community and surrounding areas, including security guards from Crystal Peaks shopping centre and a ladies dance group.
Putting her boots on for games at 11pm and at 3am was soccer starlet Helen Smith, who previously represented England under-16s.
“We’ve got a bedroom downstairs with some blow-up beds so I’ll have my alarm clock set for 2.45pm,” said the Beighton 17-year-old, also refereeing some of the other games. “It’s a brilliant event raising awareness of our heroes all over the world.”
North-east Derbyshire MP Natascha Engel had her first experience of refereeing a game when she took charge of the first match. “I’ve watched loads and it always looks really easy. It turns out it’s really hard. I will never shout those things I used to shout at referees again,” she said. “Liam was such a positive figure in the community and this is a massive celebration.”
Fully supported by Liam’s family, the initial concept was to break a world record of 27 hours. However, because they were using more than two teams it couldn’t count.
Magpies secretary Alan Stork said the fund-raising idea came about soon after Liam died. “We felt we had to do something as he was a good outfield player so this is our bit for Help For Heroes.”
Fund-raising committee member Julie Roberts said they were hoping to raise £8,000 with the event and an auction. “We’ve had a massive response and it’s nice to pull the community together,” she said. “It would be a sorry state if we couldn’t get people involved in this. Then a lot of the teenagers grew up with Liam when he played with the Magpies.”