Perched in plum seats at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge, sports sciences students saw history happen at Soccer Aid’s very first mixed match.
Five researchers watched the ground-breaking game from the press box as part of Brunel’s Football Association-backed study into adult mixed football.
Showbiz stars teamed with sporting legends as the England and World XI teams went head to head to raise a record £6 million for kid’s charity, UNICEF.
Broadcast live on ITV and watched by a stadium crowd of 40,000, a nail-biting penalty shootout saw the World team win after a 2-2 draw.
“It was fantastic, the atmosphere was great.” said Brunel University London’s Dr Laura Hills, who led the five-strong research team.
Four women players, including former Lionesses Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey, were on the pitch for 56 minutes in what was a first for the yearly friendly fundraiser.
“It’s the first time they have had women involved and, as you would expect from former England and Brazil national players, they played really well,” said Dr Hills. “A highlight was Rachel Yankee’s volley to Jeremy Lynch for England’s first goal.”
Brunel’s research into mixed-gender football policy started in 2007, looking at children’s mixed football. Boys and girls can now play football together up to under-18 and the study is now investigating risk factors in adult mixed football.
“It was an exciting match,” Dr Hills added, “and a great opportunity for our students to gain some research skills, see the match and get experience working in sports science research.”
Unicef said its Soccer Aid 2019 goal is to raise money to give more than 80,000 children in Sierra Leone and Zambia a ‘childhood full of play’.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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