For a lifetime West Ham fan and all-round sports-nut, being involved in the inaugural Soccer Aid back in 2006 was a thing of dreams for Tipping Point presenter Ben Shepherd.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, he told host Kate Thornton that he couldn’t believe it when Robbie Williams invited him to play against some of the greatest footballers ever – including the late, great Diego Maradona.
Shephard said he was flabbergasted when first told the line-up.
“Shearer and Sheringham and all that, that was enough for me,” he laughed. “But Diego Maradona! I was like, ‘You're absolutely joking me. How do you even do that?’”
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The match, which went ahead at Old Trafford on 27 May, 2006, saw England take on the rest of the world and there’s one special moment that he and team-mate Williams still love to remember to this day 14 years later.
“I don't see Robbie very much because he's in LA a lot, but whenever we do catch up, we always share this moment,” Shephard revealed.
“Robbie was playing left back, and he started the match that day and I'm playing sort of alongside him and we’re running back towards our goal. I genuinely said to him out loud, 'Rob, Rob! Maradona, left shoulder'.
“And he looked at me and I looked at him and this moment of clarity where we just burst out laughing because it was like when we were kids in the park and it was like, ‘Well, I'll be, Gazza. You'll be Maradona!’ – but we were playing in front of 70,000 people at Old Trafford and it was the Maradona.”
Maradona, who scored the infamous ‘hand of god’ goal against England in the World Cup, died last November at the age of 60.
Writing on Instagram, Shephard said that his encounter with Maradona at Soccer Aid healed his broken 12-year-old heart.
He wrote: “He was such a gent, warm, generous with his time and he just loved being the centre of attention on the pitch.
“He started the game getting booed, by the time he left the pitch he received a standing ovation. Thank you, Diego – you broke my heart as a boy of 12, by the time I was 30 I’d given it straight back to you!”
Since that first Soccer Aid match, Shephard has taken part in the celebrity football tournament numerous times and is has the dubious honour of being the only celebrity to get a red card over the years.
It’s not the only sporting event that has provided a real ‘pinch me’ moment for the Good Morning Britain presenter. In 2012, he hosted the athletics at the Olympic Stadium.
“I look at those moments every now and again, and just think, goodness, did that really happen?” he told Thornton.
“I love my sport. If I could have done anything in life, it would have been... tried to be a professional sportsman, so to be there [the Olympic stadium] and be a part of it… and involved with it was a dream come true.”
The presenter who celebrates 23 years in the business this year, says that he needs to take more time to remember the good moments of his career.
“I think there's been some amazing moments - that I've been very, very lucky along the way,” he said.
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