The incredible story of when Roberto Carlos played in a Sunday League game
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Roberto Carlos has won both the World Cup and the Champions League but it was on the 4 March 2022 that he truly completed football.
The Real Madrid and Brazil legend turned up at a sports village in Shrewsbury to make his Sunday League debut for Bull in the Barne United.
The Greenhous Shrewsbury & District Sunday Football League side won a ‘Dream transfer 'raffle through eBay, with software engineer Liam Turall convincing player-manager Ed Speller to put in a cheeky £5 bid.
Bull in the Barne were picked at random and fans and media flocked to the middle of nowhere on a fresh Friday morning to see one of the greatest left-backs ever get a taste of what ‘proper football’ is really like.
They took on Harlescott Rangers from the same league in a friendly fixture in what was undoubtedly in front of a record crowd at Hanwood Village Hall Recreation Centre, which had a main stand and a makeshift commentary booth for the beloved Chris Kamara to describe the action.
Fortunate to be invited to attend the special event after interviewing Carlos over Zoom, I jumped on the train from Manchester Piccadilly and got a taxi from the station – the driver wondering why on earth there was such a security presence outside the venue.
I had to let him know that a three-time Champions League winner was in town. There were free bacon and sausage butties and hot and cold drinks available upon arrival as both sets of players put up the nets in Sunday League tradition.
And after a bit of a wait, free-kick king Carlos made his grand entrance, jumping out of the back of a Land Rover in the car park before meeting his new and excited teammates.
Carlos put on his maroon home shirt complete name and number on the back and joined in the warm-ups on a pitch that wasn’t quite as impressive as the Santiago Bernabeu.
He then practiced his trademark set-pieces with mixed results – wallopping one into the top corner but getting another effort horribly wrong and nearly hitting it into the nearby Primary School.
But then when it came to kick-off, Carlos was omitted from the starting XI. Turall, the man who had the idea of bidding in the competition, retained his place at left-back and so Carlos had to watch on from the bench.
Wearing his blue and yellow Adidas boots and with the biggest calves you’ve ever seen, Carlos did then enter the fray to a thunderous ovation in the first half.
He slotted into central midfield, with the Bulls 2-0 down. They would find a way back into the game but if we’re being honest, Carlos wasn’t contributing all that much.
With his fitness levels not anywhere near as sharp as during his playing days, Carlos spent a lot of time walking about.
A load of rookies who play for a bit of fun weren’t exactly going to give him a rollocking but Carlos literally gave the ball away every time he got it.
After half-time had been and gone, the two teams emerged from the tunnel but Carlos was nowhere to be seen.
It was then communicated that he was in the changing rooms receiving a massage on his knee while the game was still going on. You couldn’t write it.
However, there was still time for Carlos to have his special moment. He was subbed back on to take a penalty and made no mistake from 12 yards, coolly rolling the ball past the goalkeeper.
Wow Carlos has scored a pen. Got subbed on just to take it pic.twitter.com/ywpwJXDF5c— Josh Lawless (@JoshLawless_) March 4, 2022
The Bulls lost 4-3 but the result was irrelevant in the grand scheme. This was a spectacle and unique experience seeing a genuine footballing legend up close and personal.
Carlos presented the Man of the Match trophy to defender Callum Bebb, took selfies and conducted a slew of post-match interviews, one of which was with myself.
“To get to the Bernabeu I had to play on pitches like this when I was younger,” he told SPORTbible when quizzed on the playing surface.
“The ball is round everywhere. It’s completely normal when you play grassroots football, that’s how you play.
“It brought back some memories from the past when I used to play. They [the team] have quality. Tactically it’s not like the pros but the most important thing is that they enjoyed themselves. It was a great day.
“I’ve never played in an English team before, now I have! I only played a little but I played.”
Carlos and other Bull in the Barne players were whisked in for a press conference in the clubhouse and after that it was time to head to back to the office in Manchester.
But Carlos still had a final Sunday League tradition to participate in; a post-match pint. A video of him sinking the beers with his colleagues while on FaceTime to Sergio Ramos went viral and was the perfect way to cap off a brilliant and bizarre day in football history.
Featured Image Credit: SPORTbible
Topics: Roberto Carlos, Real Madrid, Premier League, Brazil