Footballer's World Cup quest is over

HUNDREDS of footballers endure foul weather every Sunday to play the beautiful game.But one of these determined players has just shown his peers what glories can flow from even the lowliest theatre of dreams.

HUNDREDS of footballers endure foul weather every Sunday to play the beautiful game.

But one of these determined players has just shown his peers what glories can flow from even the lowliest theatre of dreams.

Days ago Lawrence Harvey, a 31-year-old quantity surveyor from Burwell, near Newmarket, played in two World Cup qualifier matches to become the envy of all his colleagues in the Cambridgeshire Sunday league.

He next lines up for Cambridgeshire Sunday league side Alcia Athletic from Newmarket –weeks after playing in a World Cup Qualifier.

Life for Harvey will never be the same again after he played in the top football competition for the tiny Caribbean community of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Though the minnows' World Cup dream is now over – they lost to a strong Haiti side over two legs – Harvey has reflected on a magical week when he fulfilled the dream of every aspiring football star.

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He said: "The whole thing was an amazing experience. I have been playing football since the age of 12 and I think it is everyone's dream to play in the World Cup.

"It was the most amazing thing I have ever experienced and easily the best week of my life. Now I am back at work, all I have is memories but they will be embedded in my head forever."

In an unaccustomed position of centre midfield, Harvey usually turns out in defence, the former Newmarket Town man was pitted against opponents who usually frequent French and Argentinean leagues rather than the Halls of Cambridge – the official name for the league he plays in every week.

Haiti are ranked higher than Northern Ireland in the world rankings and this made the 5-0 first leg 2-0 second leg losses more bearable.

It was far from a disgrace for the small island currently rated the second worst international team in the world.

"I was not too disappointed because as a team we played absolutely brilliantly and we exceeded our own expectations," Harvey said.

"I think I did myself justice and I was pleased with how it went. Haiti were extremely good and had been training for the match for eight weeks – we only met up with the squad a few days before the first match."

Despite the difference in preparation, for one week Harvey lived the life of a professional footballer and even played in a World Cup stadium – the Miami Bowl was used for the USA 94 competition.

He said: "Every single scenario I had in my head – the changing rooms, the training, the pitch – made me smile.

"I find it hard to put into words how good an experience the whole thing was and I know I was very lucky to be part of such an event."

Harvey's adventure began just after Christmas when he received an unexpected phone call from the Caicos Football Association which got wind of the fact that he had worked on the Caribbean island between 2001 and 2003.

He said: "They asked me if I wanted to play in a World Cup qualifier and of course my reaction was that it was a dream, although a fantastic one. When I told my mates from the team, they were all ecstatic for me although they thought it was a wind-up."

Upon accepting the proposal, Harvey underwent a strict training regime with pasta replacing kebabs and Red Bull standing in for red wine.

He said: "From that point, I cut out alcohol and bad food. It wasn't difficult as there was such a big goal for me to work towards.

"As soon as I knew there was a chance of me playing, I was not going to ruin my chance by being silly."

Although he is now only left with sweet memories, and Newmarket's George Lambton playing fields are a world away from the Miami Bowl, don't be surprised if you see a rare thing on a Sunday league playing field near you - a tall centre back with a proud beaming smile on his face.

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