Professional footballers have been known to wear protective masks, but nothing like the iconic face protector of the Phantom. Flags are regularly waved pitch side, but rarely one as striking as Les Misérables’ large red number.
All this could change on Sunday when the casts of the West End’s longest running musicals face off on the football pitch for the second annual Les Mis v Phantom match.
The competition was staged for the first time last year in support of Les Misérables’ head of wigs, Melanie Oakley-Dow, and her fight against cancer. This year it returns, raising money of Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Theatres For Theatres appeal, inspired by the famous children’s hospital’s work with the young daughter of former Les Mis crew member Alex Bremer. Sadly Lizzy lost her battle with Neuroblastoma in the build-up to this year’s match.
Here Les Misérables current Combeferre, Jonny Purchase, lets us in on the surprisingly professional preparations being undertaken by the Les Mis squad:
When a big football match like this takes place, preparation is the key to success. We have been playing five-a-side matches for many weeks to get us used to each other on the pitch and maintain fitness. We’ve played some bigger 11-a-side matches too. However, the Les Misérables cast couldn’t have had much better preparation than the weekend we’ve just experienced.
A couple of weeks ago, our wonderful Marius, Rob Houchen, informed us that his stepdad was a top coach at St George’s Park, the Football Association’s £103 million, state of the art training facility where all 24 England national squads train. He told us that he had arranged a trip to the centre and a training session to help us prepare. I was like a little kid at Christmas.
When we arrived, the £103 million price tag definitely lived up to expectations. The only way I can describe it is like a football fan’s paradise. Hidden in the middle of nowhere and sitting in the beautiful backdrop of Burton’s countryside, there are immaculate football pitches everywhere.
When I say it’s a football paradise, I’m really not exaggerating. The main reception has a wall designed like a full-sized goal with circles that light up where famous players have scored. Claudio Ranieri, the manager of Monaco FC, was casually walking round. Portuguese international and ex-Chelsea FC player Ricardo Carvalho was being interviewed. The cast of Les Misérables just stood amazed at what we had walked into.
After settling in, we headed straight to the training centre and headed out to those immaculate pitches to be taken through a top class training session by two head coaches from the FA. The heavens opened and chucked it down, but it didn’t stop us one bit!
We were told at the start of the session to take it easy, reserve our energy and not get too excited. Excited or unfit, either way we were all short of breath after the first phase of the first session. The coaches certainly put us through our paces and taught us a lot, not just about technique, but how to use our brains and think tactically. For three hours we endured an intense training session that would help us improve and hopefully beat the team from The Phantom Of The Opera.
After the session we warmed down and relaxed in the steam room, sauna and ice showers. We ate at the centre’s restaurant, which was again immaculate, then chilled in the bar until a time I will not write, where we met some of the other celebs and ex-footballers that were there, including Olly Murs, Nick Grimshaw, Dion Dublin and Pat Bonner.
In the morning, we were invited to take a look around the sports science labs at the complex. Lee Dillion-Stuart took on the BATAK challenge where you use your peripheral vision to hit different lights around a big frame. He managed to hit 68 in 60 seconds. The record was something like 172, which showed us how far we had to go to meet the real athletes’ standards.
It truly was a weekend to remember and the best preparation we could have had before the big game. It has always been a massive dream to play football in a stadium in front of a crowd and I’m already nervous but very excited about next Sunday. Not only that, but the main reason the game is happening is to raise money for a very worthwhile and wonderful charity Great Ormond Street Hospital. Whatever happens on the day, everyone will be playing and supporting in aid of this wonderful cause and in memory of Lizzy Bremer.
It will definitely be a very fun day for everyone involved. With family activities, raffles and food for all, it promises to be an amazing day. We’ve still got some light sessions to go through over the next week to make our final preparations. I can guarantee, Misérables will be putting in everything to make sure we retain the title and bring the trophy home.
Please come along and join in our crusade as we take on Phantom once again.
Les Mis Vs Phantom
Bromley Football Club
11 August 2013
Fun starts at 13:00, Kick off at 15:00
Tickets at www.lesmisvphantom.co.uk