Published: 16 September, 2010
by RICHARD OSLEY
HE turned up in shorts signed by Diego Maradona and perhaps took his adoration for the Argentinian master too far.
After the Camden Labour Party had inched to a lucky – very, very lucky – win against the New Journal in a football fundraiser on Tuesday night, their star striker, Alastair Campbell, admitted one of his goals may have touched his hand before going in.
Mr Campbell, 53, and his son Rory, a super-fit football coach, were late additions to the Labour team but turned the game against your journalist heroes at Haverstock School’s pitches in a match which raised £1,000 for the Pakistan flood relief appeal.
Among the big donations was a £200 pledge from former mayor Ramen Bhattacharya, who watched the action from the sidelines.
Witnesses said that one of Campbell Snr’s “headed” goals was a “more blatant handball than Thierry Henry against Ireland” and compared it with Maradona’s famous cheat goal against England in the 1986 World Cup.
Mr Campbell – more used to playing in Soccer Aid charity games at Old Trafford – claimed he scored a hat-trick in the (very, very lucky) 10-4 win, even though one of the goals was, in fact, an own-goal.
Goals from Campbell Jnr and Rob Higson, a recent candidate in Camden Town, completed the lopsided result.
Campbell Snr crowed on his blog: “I was baited into it on Twitter by journalists from the CNJ who claimed I was only interested in turning out with Diego Maradona and the like at Old Trafford.
“Duly stung, I turned out in the rain, took along my son Rory, and between us we scored well over half of the 10 goals we hammered past the hapless hacks.”
And in a confession that left New Journal reporters incensed, he added: “Now that the game is over, I can confirm that one of my goals may have touched my hand rather than my head as I lofted it over the keeper. You see, that time spent with Diego wasn’t wasted.”
But even the most sexed-up interpretation of the match could not hide the New Journal’s unfortunate defeat to a team that featured council leader Nash Ali, London Assembly member Murad Qureshi and finance chief Theo Blackwell.
For all the bravado, it was Campbell’s son, Rory, who was the man of the match, scoring a stunning free kick and thrashing another one in from miles out. None of his goals were handballs.
The match had been the subject of fierce baiting beforehand. Ken Livingstone and Ed Miliband sent good luck messages to Labour councillors involved, while Camden Town councillor Thomas Neumark devoted his full council speech on Monday night to the match and the importance of beating “the gutter press”.
Leader Councillor Nasim Ali said his money was safe when he pledged to pay £10 for every goal the New Journal netted.
The all weather eight-a-side pitch was provided free of charge by Kajima Community. Manager Jason Stocks said he was “delighted to help such an important fundraiser”.
Organiser and team captain Councillor Awale Olad said: “It was never about giving the New Journal a severe beating, it was about Pakistan and helping the people who were caught up in the worst-ever natural disaster in the region.”
• If you would like to contribute to the appeal, contact organisers Awale Olad or Tulip Siddiq at Camden Council. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org