What started as a kickabout between friends to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity quickly turned into a star-studded football match at Crystal Palace FC, with celebrities like Omid Djalili and ex-pros such as Russell Martin, Paul Hayes and Sergio Torres delighting spectators to help raise thousands for the children’s hospital.
The Goals 4 GOSH event organised by Jamie Groves, Regional Development Director of Greater London South, saw the Flamingo Falcons and Palace Panthers, both named after different wards at Great Ormond Street, go head-to-head at Selhurst Park Stadium to raise over £40,000, more than doubling Jamie’s original target of £15,000.
Jamie said: “I was absolutely blown away by how keen these celebrities and football legends were to get involved with Goals 4 GOSH, and even more so by the amount we ended up raising for Great Ormond Street.
“Everyone from former England player Lianne Sanderson to actor Tamer Hassan got a chance to play in a roll-on, roll-off system, and the crowd loved every minute of it. I hope what we’ve raised can go a long way in helping Great Ormond Street continue their hard work and make unwell children feel better again.”
Jamie originally suggested the idea of Goals 4 GOSH to family friend and retired footballer Allan Cockram, which was then to be a small, local match with an ambitious goal of raising £15,000 for Great Ormond Street.
However, with Allan’s support, Jamie ended up reaching out to a number of other ex-football pros and celebrities who quickly expressed an interest in playing. He described: “It was a snowball effect; I’d speak to a couple of stars who would mention it to their circle of friends, and then they’d mention it to their group of friends.”
Jamie received interest from over 30 high-profile players, so he set about finding a sizeable venue for the match. Crystal Palace FC offered their Selhurst Park stadium, as well as a jersey signed by its players for a raffle at half-time.
Jamie came up with a number of other ways to raise funds for Great Ormond Street, including sponsorship opportunities for businesses to see their logos featured on players and the match day programmes.
He said: “We managed to sell every sponsorship opportunity, more than 500 tickets and pay-per-view livestreams, meaning we actually passed our £15,000 fundraising target about a week before matchday.
“Ultimate Fantasy Merch was also kind enough to provide exclusive trading cards based on each player, some of which were included in an auction and raised a lot of money.”
The Flamingo Falcons, captained by Jamie, claimed a 9-5 victory on the day, while Omid Djalili won ‘player of the match’ for the Palace Panthers through a poll on social media by pulling off some impressive tricks.
Jamie said: “We called Omid the Roberto Carlos of the Palace Panthers as he managed to perform some crazy back heel passes and step overs. He was a real crowd pleaser throughout the whole match.”
Lianne scoring with an assist from Jamie was another highlight of the day that saw the former England star play for the first time in front of some of her family and friends, who were watching from the stands. Jamie described: “It was a big moment for Lianne and the crowd was going wild.”
Jamie also managed to make his mark on the scoresheet by scoring a cool, calm and collected finishing goal.
Members of Danson Sports FC and girls from Beckenham Town Junior FC were brought onto the pitch at half-time along with children from Brentford Penguins FC, who were able to score with some impressive shots into the goals after the match.
Tamer Hassan said: “It was a pleasure to be a part of the Goals 4 GOSH football match in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was lovely to see supporters enjoying themselves on the day, and seeing plenty of smiling faces. Brilliant efforts by Jamie for arranging this.”
Paul Hayes said: “I really enjoyed myself playing in the Goals 4 GOSH football match. The organisation and the support of the event was incredible and so professional. Can’t wait to play in the next one, well done Jamie.”
Lily Coombs, Senior Fundraising Executive at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, said: “A huge thank you to the organisers, sponsors, participants and attendees of the Goals 4 GOSH event!
“Great Ormond Street Hospital has always depended on the support of Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to help transform the health and wellbeing of seriously ill children and young people. The support means so much to us and we are delighted with the exceptional fundraising that has been achieved.”
Jamie looks forward to organising another Goals 4 GOSH event in 2022, with many of this year’s players having already committed to a rematch.
He concluded: “Everyone in the crowd had smiles on their faces and it filled me and the other players with such joy, especially after thinking about how tough the last couple of years have been. We simply must and will do this again.”