Tackling breast cancer

Football with it's dirty underbelly of sleaze, cash and sordidness.  But football is a force for good too, which maybe doesn't get the attention it deserves.  David Hartrick looks at ‘The Longest Match’.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing an extremely talkative Kevin Day for this very website. One subject he was keen to mention amongst all the talk of Crystal Palace and Graham Poll left a huge mark on me. Mr Day steered me towards a charity football match with a difference - a big difference – and curiosity demanded I investigated further.

From kick-off to full time 36 players are about to embark on an odyssey, a 60 hour match in aid of Breast Cancer Campaign that sounds unforgiving to say the very least. Knowing the snivelling, gasping, aching wreck that greets my wife each week after an hour’s 5-a-side, I just had to speak to organiser Ricardo Braganza and find out more about ‘The Longest Match’.

Tell us a little bit about your reasons for attempting what sounds like an act of madness

I’ve always been a very active person and from a young age I’ve taken part in events for charity. By God’s grace I have the ability to help others through such events and I enjoy the challenge of taking part in them. I organised and ran the marathon distance around my school field when I was too young to run the London Marathon and raised £1366 for Glanfield Children’s Group. I ran the London Marathon in 2009 and 2010 for two other different charities but I wanted to run for Breast Cancer Campaign because my mum was diagnosed with the disease in early 2008. Unfortunately - due to limited places - I was rejected twice, so in order to have a better chance of an entry to the 2011 London Marathon for the charity I came up with this idea.

So in order to run a marathon, you’re playing 60 hours of football - I’ve never felt worse about cancelling my gym membership. How did the idea of a world record 60 hour game come up?

I thought that the best way to raise a lot of money for charity is to get a lot of people involved and since playing football is my passion, I thought it’d be a fantastic way to generate a decent amount of sponsorship. Having seen someone attempt the record on television, my initial plan was to break the world record that stood at 42 hours by playing for 48. Initially I thought I could get all the players - 36 as specified by Guinness World Records - to raise £100 in the belief that the £3,600 for the charity would hopefully confirm my marathon spot. After doing a lot of research into an attempt earlier this year I realised it was going to require a lot of effort on my part, and so I decided that all players should try and raise £500. This isn’t a large amount when you consider the many friends the players have from universities, schools, family, and work colleagues.

So your initial target was to play for 48 hours?

That was the plan, but then it came to my attention that some lads from Warwick attempted to break the previous record and play for 57 hours - also for charity - and I applaud them for their attempt and the money raised. Having now found this information out I knew we had to up our game and go for 60 hours, two and a half days in total. This equates to the length of a full Premier League season being played all in one go, including four minutes of ‘Fergie Time’ every match!

How is the match structured, I take it the record requires certain conditions?

The match has to adhere to the rules put in place by Guinness World Records. We’re required to have two timekeepers during the match and a qualified referee throughout, also two witnesses must be present for the duration of the match to verify the event and fill in a logbook. Guinness allow us just 18 players on each team so I’ve devised a rotation system where everyone plays in every position, and players mainly play for two hours and then get an hour’s break. During that hour off they’re allowed to eat, sleep, and go to the toilet. Guinness also specify that players aren’t allowed to leave the venue throughout the match so we’ve gained sponsorship from Blacks who’ll be providing tents and refreshments for all the players. I’ve also had to get portaloos, obtain massaging services, first aid help, and any free supplies to ensure the match runs as smoothly as possible, and we’re still after any help any companies can offer us.

Be honest, over the full 60 hours are you really going to be competitive?

Although I expect no crunching tackles to be made for fear of getting sent off early, the match will definitely be competitive. Even though the main aim of the event is charity, I certainly don’t want to come off the pitch having played for 60 hours and lost! I’ll be giving it my all and I’ve sent all players a vigorous 10-week training guide along with contracts which all of them had to sign to confirm their place in the match. If the recruits, I mean players, manage to survive this ordeal then they’ll be faced with two and half days of luxurious pitch-side accommodation, ranging from abject cold on the hard rubber crumb, all the way up to a two-man tent.

With an offer like that it’s no wonder you managed to find 35 other people ‘desperate’ to play…

I know!

When and where is it taking place and can people come along and watch for a couple of hours?

The match kicks off on Friday 22nd October at 9am at Loughborough University Front Rubber Crumb, and goes on come rain or shine until 9pm on Sunday 24th October. Anyone is welcome to come down and watch and cheer us on, we’ll definitely need as much support as possible! I’ve been in contact with several celebrity agents and I’m hoping to get some big names down, although many weren’t able to commit due to the length of time before the event. However now that the match is approaching I’m hoping to secure some big names to join the likes of Kevin Day and Neg Dupree at the match. We’re also having a raffle on the final day with some amazing prizes secured already - several more on their way - so if you’re coming be prepared to bring your wallet!

Where can people get involved and most importantly donate?

I’ve done several bucket collections at train and tube stations in London, Leicester, and Nottingham already, personally attending them all and spending over 120 hours on 11 bucket collection days, so if you passed by anyone dressed in pink tutus and other fancy dress, you now know what it was for. We’ve currently raised about £18,000 but every single donation we get is important, we’ll be having buckets available to donate on the three days of the event and also the opportunity to buy the raffle tickets. All players have their own Virgin Money Giving fundraising page link – they’re all listed on our Facebook group and page named ‘World’s Longest Charity Football Match’. Also we have the website www.longestfootballmatch.com which I urge everyone to please sign up to, it’s free and we don’t spam you with emails or take any credit card details. We’re also on twitter at www.twitter.com/longestmatch or @longestmatch for those who want to follow us. My personal Virgin Money Giving page is http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RicardoBraganza and please don’t underestimate the fact that every little helps - it doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

£18,000 already and more to come – you must be reasonably certain of that marathon place?

Hopefully but every donation counts and it’s not just about that. This is a great opportunity to say thanks to the every person who donated at all the bucket collections, to the wonderful staff at Breast Cancer Campaign, the people who have helped out at Loughborough University, and just to everyone who has contributed to the event in any way. I really appreciate all the things people have done to help me out and I’m looking forward to a successful event with as many people attending and donating as possible.

What’s next for you after this?

A rest! I’ve been organising this event for the last three and a half months since the day of my last university summer exam and I’m now going into the 4th and final year of my Masters’ Degree in Mathematics. I spent the summer doing an internship at Barnardo’s charity and I’ve spent pretty much all my spare time organising the match. Once this is over I’ve got the small matter of a marathon to continue training for! My plan is to complete the London Marathon for the next 50 years, so 48 more to go starting with the 2011 entry.

A 60 hour game is an incredible undertaking and worth at least five minutes of your time at the very least. If you can support this event either by way of a donation or by helping to spread the word by way of a re-tweet, please do so as, besides the human effort involved and the enormous effort from Ricardo himself, every ounce of support is both appreciated and deserved. Those contact details again are –

On twitter @longestmatch

Facebook group ‘World’s Longest Charity Football Match’.

Website: www.longestfootballmatch.com

All donation pages can be accessed through the website.