Ryman Premier midfielder, Leiston’s Gareth Heath, set to play for England in Brazil this summer
- Credit: Archant
Leiston midfielder Gareth Heath has been picked to represent England, in Brazil, this summer.
The 33-year-old hasn’t been selected by Roy Hodgson to run the Three Lions’ engine-room, but will still be living the dream in Rio, as part of an England six-a-side team, playing against eight other sides.
And if that wasn’t enough, the experienced playmaker has also scooped a ticket for one of the World Cup quarter-final matches, as part of the six-day trip to Brazil, and will be also taking his seat as a VIP for the FA Cup final between Arsenal and Hull next month.
The former AFC Sudbury man will be staying at the Budweiser Hotel on Copacabana Beach after impressing former pros Steve Clarke, David Ginola, Alex McLeish and Ray Parlour during a nail-biting trial on the hallowed Wembley turf.
Heath explained: “I entered a competition run by Budweiser for footballers aged over 25.
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“They were looking for footballers who wanted a second chance in football, those players that play Sunday League, semi-professional or just watch the game on TV.
“The incentive was to get through a series of trials to win a chance to play at Wembley and I could not pass the opportunity up. Fortunately, my name was picked out and it went from there.”
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Original trials were held at Hayes & Yeading’s ground and Heath, along with hundreds of other hopefuls, had to go through a number of speed, agility, dribbling and shooting skills under the watchful eye of former Arsenal and England star Parlour and FA-qualified coaches.
A total of 126 players were then invited to the FA’s national football centre at St George’s Park, where Parlour was joined by Clarke, McLeish and Ginola, who watched the entrants play a number of nine-a-side games.
From there, a final 32 players were shortlisted and split into two teams, Heath skippering the side managed by former West Brom head coach Clarke and assisted by Parlour.
The Ipswich Town fan’s team prevailed 6-2 and Heath was chosen for a trip to Brazil, courtesy of being considered one of the eight best players on the park.
“I am still in dreamland,” Heath added.
“I am 33 and still enjoying my football, but for this to come up, I can’t believe it.
“To play at Wembley was brilliant. We were in the home changing rooms and as captain, I led my team down the tunnel which is the stuff of dreams.
“There were a lot of empty seats obviously, but our family and friends were there and we each had our name and picture appear on the Wembley big screen, while the competition has been featured on BT Sport.
“To then be picked as one of the best eight players by the ex-professionals who have all played at the top level, two of them managing as well, was a great privilege and they were all great people too.
“They were all more than approachable, in fact you didn’t have to approach them, and they all had a bit about them. When they talk, you listen as they have achieved things in their careers that you can only dream about.”
The remit now is to stay fit, enabling Heath to give his maximum in South America.
“It will be a new experience for me and it is like anything, I will take it as it comes,” he said.
“I will have to get myself fit and injuries towards the end of the season are always a concern, but that won’t change the way I approach any of the remaining games with Leiston.”