Leiston’s Gareth Heath is back in Ryman League action after starring in Bud Cup in Brazil
- Credit: Andrew Partridge
There was one England team that performed well in Brazil this summer.
As Roy Hodgson’s men were failing to conquer Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in South America, Leiston midfielder Gareth Heath was showing them how it’s done.
The experienced playmaker captained England’s six-a-side team, which was made up of semi-professional and amateur players, and led his country to the last-four where they were knocked out by old foes, Argentina, in Rio.
The 33-year-old also scooped a ticket for Germany’s quarter-final victory against France, as part of the six-day trip to Brazil, which was all organised by Budweiser UK.
During the tournament, Heath, who stayed with his team-mates at the Budwesier Hotel on Copacabana Beach, led his team to victories against the hosts, as well as Ukraine and Guatemala at the same Naval base in which Hodgson’s England trained, before the clash with Argentina, who themselves were beaten in the final by Colombia.
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“I went there with high expectations and it didn’t let me down,” said Heath, whose team begin their Ryman League Premier Division campaign at Wingate & Finchley today.
“Considering our team was thrown together, we did really well to beat Brazil, Guatemala and Ukraine and it was great for us to reach the semi-finals.
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“Obviously it was disappointing to lose to Argentina but we were playing teams that had come through national competitions to get there.
“It was a challenge for the players to get to know each other and the heat was also a factor too with the game durations being cut from 15 minutes each way to 12 after the first game because of the heat.”
Heath, who scored three goals during the tournament, also managed to get a taste of the main event as, along with his team-mates, he was a guest of honour for Germany’s quarter-final win in the spectacular Maracana Stadium in Rio.
“The game was not the best but the atmosphere was incredible,” added Heath.
“There was an awful lot of Brazil fans there, who couldn’t get tickets to watch their team play and the memories will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Heath is a likely starter for today’s game but admitted turning out in non-league again will be a bit of a culture shock.
“Having experienced what I did, it was a bit of a slap in the face,” said Heath.
“But after a couple of days, I was back fully focused on Leiston.
“I think there are exciting times ahead at the club under Bally (Steve Ball ) and Wilks (Richard Wilkins.
“We are playing football in the right way, we want to progress and I think we can at least achieve the play-offs.”