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Teen Pop Idol Attracts Extra Fans To UK Soccer Match


This week, one-fifth of the biggest boy band in the world made up one-eleventh of an English professional soccer team. In a charity game, the One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson turned out to play for his hometown club, the reserve team of Doncaster Rovers.

Now these games normally attract only 100-or-so spectators, mostly friends and family. But the teen idol attracted thousands of fans from as far away as, can you imagine, America. BBC Radio Sheffield's Andy Kershaw was at the game and joins us. Thanks very much for being with us, Andy.

ANDY KERSHAW: It's a pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: How did this happen, anyway?

KERSHAW: Well Louis Tomlinson is from Doncaster. He's from a little place called Bessacarr, and he's always harbored an ambition to play on his home turf in his hometown. You know, what do you give a 23-year-old millionaire after all who's got everything? You give him ambition to play on that home turf. And that's what that was all about.

SIMON: So he was a big draw in terms of what usually turns out, right?

KERSHAW: A big draw, well, there were 5,400 tickets sold for a reserves game that's normally played on a training ground about five or six miles with no heavy security. This was played in the main stadium. They normally get about 100, maybe 200 fans along, but nearly 6,000 fans, screaming teenage girls I have to say, came along.

SIMON: Is he any good, Andy?

KERSHAW: Well, I'll tell you what. He looked a bit like a skinny pop star. He was more concerned with the way his hair looked on the pitch, you know. He did get a kick at the ball. It was brought...

SIMON: You mean he was like David Beckham? Sorry.


KERSHAW: Totally. And he came on in the 65th minute wearing the 28 shirt and played for about 20 minutes, till full time. He got about two kicks of the ball. And every time he went near the ball there were these screeching, ear-piercing screams from the tourists. But there were people from all over the world. They came from Barcelona, from Mexico, from Denmark, Newcastle and of course Doncaster. And there was one superfan, her name was Ashley Newburt(ph).

ASHLEY NEWBURT: I'm from Michigan, the United States.

KERSHAW: Michigan, United States. And you've come all the way from Michigan today?

NEWBURT: Indeed. I had to jump on the opportunity. So I did, I got on the plane, and I'm here.

KERSHAW: Did you leave today here?

NEWBURT: I've been here for three days now, but just three weeks ago I made these plans to come on over.

KERSHAW: And she was absolutely one of thousands of teenage girls behind the barrier waiting in the cold. They'd queued for hours, Scott, to see Louis Tomlinson turn up, not in the sort of ragged old team bus splithering(ph) out diesel but a top-of-the-range Merc.

SIMON: For one day only, I'm assuming.

KERSHAW: For one day only without the rest of the band, you know, not so much a good football player, perhaps an even better musician, but I don't think people cared.

SIMON: Do you think the club's interested in bringing him to the parent squad? Do you think - I mean, are they sensing, you know, premier league, you know, potential here?

KERSHAW: I don't think so. I think somebody probably whispered in his ear don't give up the day job. But it was a nil-nil score. I think he will play again now he's fulfilled that ambition. He's always been what they called a Donny Rovers fan. And he may play again. And this was all for a good cause; it was a local children's hospice charity. It was great to be there among so many enthusiastic young people.

SIMON: Andy Kershaw, a reporter for BBC Radio Sheffield. Thanks very much for being with us, Andy.

KERSHAW: It's a pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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