The Belfry is no stranger to intense competition, having held a number of European Tour events with four Ryder Cups – more than any other venue – thrown in for good measure. However, it’s never seen anything quite like ICONS of Football 2017.
With Ryder Cup veterans Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke leading the way as captains for England and Rest of the World, respectively, a host of top footballers past and present took on the famous Brabazon course over two days of exhilarating golf.
An early start on Saturday saw Westwood’s England dominate the greensomes with former Manchester United striker Teddy Sheringham and the only scratch golfer in the field, Jimmy Bullard setting the tone with a 5&4 win over another Red Devil in Dwight Yorke and former Ajax and Denmark winger Kenneth Perez.
Their win lead to a sea of blue covering the board until two men from either side of Manchester gave Clarke’s men some hope. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and United legend Ryan Giggs were in red hot form, with the former Barcelona man impressively chipping in on the 4th on the way to a stunning 9&7 win over Kevin Davies and Andrew Cole, with the latter unfortunately having to withdraw through illness.
Into the afternoon fourballs and Rest of the World came out fighting and, with all the groups out on the course there was red across the board prompting ten time Ryder Cup player Westwood to rally his men with a few words of wisdom out on the course.
His words took effect as well with a late fight back from Kieron Dyer and Phil Jagielka, who won a their match to restore England’s lead, before Kevin Phillips and James Milner picked up another valuable point giving England a two point lead going into Sunday’s singles, despite another stunning hole-out from the Manchester City boss after finding water on the 12th.
With Andrew Cole still unable to play Team England’s Paul Ince called on his son and new Huddersfield Town signing Thomas to fill in on the final day and winger, who himself admitted that it had been months since he’d taken to the golf course, impressed in sharing a point with Ronald de Boer.
After a close start, with Guardiola and Michael Carrick halving the first match before a point each for both Ryan Giggs and Kevin Davies kept things tight, wins from Kevin Phillips, Robbie Fowler and the ever-reliable Jimmy Bullard secured a 13-11 victory for Team England who gave their captain bragging rights over close friend Clarke for the foreseeable future.
The maiden ICONS of Football event at The Belfry drew an impressive crowd – and mainstream media interest – throughout the weekend and attracted both golf and football fans alike. There is anticipation that a competition as unique as this has the potential to drive supporters of both sports across paths in the future. It certainly did no harm for the sport and, of course, to see English footballers lift a trophy this summer.