Battersea Park in London on 12 September 2007 saw a unique gathering of English and Russian stars from the big and small screens, the music world and other celebrities for a very special charity football match, held to raise awareness and funds for the Give Life Foundation and organized by RBCA. The event resulted in over $150,000 being raised for the Foundation, which supports young leukaemia sufferers in Russia.
The match, the brainchild of Give Life Foundation founders, the actresses Dina Korzun and Chulpan Khamatova, and RBCA Managing Director Sergei Kolushev, took place on the same day as the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier between England and Russia at Wembley Stadium. With the support and participation of many celebrity friends of RBCA and the Foundation, both the charity match and the reception held on the eve of the event at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in central London, were star-studded occasions. As an additional boost to proceedings, one of the event’s Media Partners, Business FM hosted an charity auction for the Foundation in Moscow’s GQ Bar, which itself raised a stunning $40,000 for this very worthwhile cause.
The charity football match itself took place in glorious weather on Wednesday 12 September at the Millennium Arena in Battersea Park. As well as being stars from the worlds of the film, music and politics, the celebrity players also displayed huge footballing talent. First off the mark was Russia, with an astonishing goal by world figure-skating champion Ilya Averbukh. The first half was dominated by Russia, putting intense pressure on the English stars, who in turn put in some fine defensive play to prevent Russia increasing their goal count. On the Russian team, fashion designer Denis Simachev excelled in defence, whilst some impeccable heading skills were demonstrated by siblings Sergei and Vladimir Kristovsky from pop group Umaturman; actor and TV presenter Igor Vernik initiated numerous goal attacks from midfield, ably supported by singer Maksim Pokrovsky; Roman Kostomarov, Olympic figure-skating champion, was unrelenting on the right wing, whilst Konstantin Eremenko, President of Dinamo Football Club, led the attack from the front; restaurateur Stepan Mikhalkov was always hot on the ball, and Anton Troyanov, Director of the St. Petersburg gave a master-class in dribbling. The Secretary of the Russian-Belarus Union Pavel Borodin and footballer-musician Irakli Pirtskhalava created a lot of play and chances, whilst comedian Alexander Revva kept the humour coming thick and fast, and still found time to counter the attacks of the English forwards. In goal for Russia was the three-times Olympic handball champion, and now Member of the Federation Council of Russia, Andrei Lavrov. This extremely dynamic team of celebrity sportsmen were expertly coached by Alexei Smertin, the Premiership footballer (and formerly captain of the Russian football team).
England re-grouped in the second half, and finally managed to equalize in injury time, thanks to a beautiful goal from the boot of Michael Gazard, musician from the pop group The Nites. When the final whistle blew at full-time, the goal score still stood at 1-1, despite a tremendous on-target kick, 11 metres from the goal, from England’s Guy Burnett, of Hollyoaks fame, in the dying seconds of the second half.
The fate of the match lay in the hands of the goalkeepers, as the game moved into a penalty shoot-out finale. Each team member from each side had their chance to prove themselves. From the Russian side, successful goalscorers were Roman Kostomarov, Sergei Kristovsky, Maksim Pokrovsky and Andrei Lavrov. England’s heroic scorers were comedian Andy Smart, actor and musician Keith Warwick, pop singer and son of the Status Quo legend Rick Parfitt Jr and Guy Burnett. Curiously, the celebrated football star Andrei Kanchelskis, who was playing for England this time, failed to score his penalty kick…
It was neck-and-neck until the very last minute, however, there had to be a winner, and it was England’s day: the winning penalty goal was kicked by Michael Hazard, thoroughly deserving his title of Man of the Match.
Both English and Russian teams were given rousing support by the crowd of approximately 400 people, who thronged the pitch after the match as Chulpan Khamatova and Dina Korzun awarded players medals to the teams. The true winners of the day were, however, not the footballers but the children of the Give Life Foundation, who will benefit so much from the goodwill and the funds raised during the event. The optimism and the spirit of the occasion can perhaps be summed up best by the sight of two of the children supported by the Give Life Foundation, twin sisters Katya and Elizaveta Kartyshova, who were amongswt the group of children who were flown by Russian airline Transaero to watch the match. Now a picture of health, Katya received a life-saving bone-marrow transplant from her sister Elizaveta thanks to the Give Life Foundation – this is the kind of happy ending that the Foundation wants to see every day.