I joined the Manchester School of Samba a couple of months ago and have loved every minute of playing and performing with them. Today was my 3rd gig with them but it was the first ‘biggy’ as we were playing in the presence of Pele. He and Gordon Banks had assembled teams of former players and celebrities to play a friendly to commemorate the unveiling of a statue to Banks as well as raise money for an African Children’s charity.
We led a procession of flag waving kids around the pitch and played again in the build up to the match. The atmosphere was good; I’d guess at over 6,000 people there and we felt well appreciated. Pele had Archbishop Desmond Tutu as his assistant coach (I had started a rumour that he was a tasty full-back with a ‘good engine’ in his time). Amongst the celebrities were the usual suspects you see appear in these type of games: James Nesbitt, Kevin Webster, Alistair Campbell and Ralf Little along side the ex-footballers.
I had hoped that the band might have had chance to pose with Pele, but we had a tight schedule to follow as did the great man. However, after parading around the pitch we had a chance to briefly meet a few of the celebrity players as we left the stadium and they queued to get onto the pitch. Although very tempting I thought drawing out my phone camera at this point would be a bit crass so instead, as we passed the line of celebs, I made a B-line for Coronation Street’s Kevin Webster to see how good his memory was.
I had seen Michael Le Vell in panto at the Oldham collesium a couple of months before he broke into The Street. He had done very well at playing a Buttons type character called Danny in the show and, as happens in panto, when his back was turned people would take things from the stage at which point we were to shout "Nickers Danny!". Back then, maybe 25 years ago, I had been a regular watcher of The Street and when he first appeared as a young mostashed mechanic I used to shout "Nicker Danny!" at the TV and Mum joined in too. So as I grabbed his hand I shouted "Nickers Danny" expecting either a blank or confused look but no, it registered with him, and after a quick double-take he said "you’ve got a good memory!". So I may not have met or touched Pele or Archbishop Desmond Tutu but today I have shared an in-joke with a soap star which is nearly as good by my reckoning.