Football Stars And Celebrities Make A Major Impact With A Game Of Two Halves

In A Game of Two Halves, celebrities and footballers come together for a very important cause — to raise money for one of the largest crises of our lifetime. The premise is incredibly simple: “An anthology pairing the biggest names in football with their celebrity fans for a series of revelatory interviews, with forewords by Raheem Sterling and Gary Lineker, to raise funds for refugees.”

The result is something far greater than the sum of its parts. The pairings include MP David Lammy and Eric Dier, Clare Balding and Lucy Bronze, and Omid Djalili and Frank Lampard. Though the idea behind the book might at first seem like a straightforward hook, the finished project is so much more — with a powerful humanizing effect.

The frankness of the conversation — combined with the equalizer of seeing larger-than-life celebrities clearly a bit giddy to be talking to their heroes — has a unifying, reassuring quality. At times, it’s a deep discussion of politics, at other moments it’s downright hilarious — and it’s consistently heartfelt and engaging.

David Morrissey, the actor, director, producer, screenwriter — and lifelong football fan — was one of the celebrities to take part, getting to speak to Steven Gerrard. Along with being one of the most versatile actors in the business, with everything from the prestigious Cheek By Jowl theatre company to the hit show The Walking Dead in his repertoire, Morrissey is an avid humanitarian. Through his work at the UNHCR, he helped lay the groundwork for the project with journalist and biographer Amy Raphael.

“I have been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR for a number of years now and on a trip I was doing with them to Lebanon I invited Amy to come and join us — as we’d been mates for ages and she’d expressed interest in seeing the work UNHCR do,” Morrissey tells What We Seee. “On our return, Amy said she would like to do something more to raise funds and awareness and she came up with the idea of the book. Myself and UNHCR thought it was a fantastic idea.”

A Bloody Good Read

Morrissey and many of the other celebrities relished the chance to meet their heroes, even if they were a little star-struck in the process.

“I have been a fan of Liverpool Football Club all my life and of course, Steven Gerrard was one of the greatest players we’ve ever had,” he explains. “Some of the greatest moments I have had as a Liverpool fan have been with him in the side and under his club captaincy. So meeting him was very intimidating, to say the least. But he was so relaxed and at ease with the whole process and was very generous with his time, which as you can imagine was very limited, as it was for all the people who took part in the book, both from the football world and the world of entertainment and politics. Everyone gave so much of their valuable time to come and be part of it.”

The result is a totally unique opportunity. You may have never thought you’d be able to read Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp talking about Brexit with John Bishop — or guitarist Johnny Marr and Pep Guardiola discussing how Europe has been dealing with the refugee crisis — but the instant connection between the pairs creates a frankness and a fluency that nobody could have predicted.

“I think first and foremost it’s a bloody good read. Because the interviews are conducted by fans, albeit famous fans, I think the interviewees open up more than they usually would, and I think the questions are about life choices and working philosophies more than ‘Who’s playing next week?’ or ‘Do you think that was a penalty?’ sort of questions,” Morrissey explains. “Also, a lot of the time the footballing person has questions themselves to ask the celebrity fan, so it becomes a conversation between two high profile people rather than a Q&A. I loved reading all the interviews and found them illuminating, funny and sometimes very moving. I would also add that I think there are a lot more of these interviews out there, people we couldn’t manage to arrange times for etc, so I’m sure there could be another book as well. ”

Giving A Voice

Game of Two Halves

David Lammy, Gary Lineker, Amy Raphael, and David Morrissey at the launch of “A Game of Two Halves”.

But more than the banter and the connections, the heart of this project is the cause. Morrissey has long been an advocate of shining light on important causes and fighting misinformation — and this project reminds us that we need to be paying attention, now more than ever.

“I think what drew me to the work of UNHCR, Reprieve, The Bike Project etc, is that it’s all too easy to be fed the lies that are being put out about refugees and people in vulnerable places who don’t have a voice,” he explains. “There is a deliberate fear campaign being spread about people who are trying to escape desperate situations in their own country. I would hope that if I or any of my family or friends had to leave their own homes, only taking what they could carry, fleeing persecution and torture, that there would be someone on that journey who would reach out and genuinely try and help them to a safer place.”

While the refugee crisis was once in the daily headlines, the 24-hour news cycle has long been consumed by issues like Brexit and Trump, which manage to eat up all of the oxygen and provide endless distractions. Although the refugee crisis is as severe now as it was at its height, the media has moved on and forgotten the most vulnerable people in the direst of circumstances.

We all have to find our own ways to bear witness and give back. A Game Of Two Halves is an innovative, funny, and touching way of doing just that.

You can purchase the book on Amazon and donate directly to the cause on the UNHCR website.