Clash of the Winter Warriors

WAR HEROES MARCH IN TO RESCUE MOUNTAINSIDE SOCCER TEAM’S DREAM

A YORKSHIRE regiment stepped in to save a tiny Central European town’s Christmas soccer dream – and lost 10-1.

Four members of the Dukes had barely touched down from Afghanistan when they flew out for  Poprad in Slovakia. The locals were devastated after two soccer events had to be cancelled.

Months ago Eric Harrison, boss of David Beckham’s London football academy, pledged to visit Poprad’s snow-bound 1950s stadium – farmers and factory workers joined forces to begin repairing it. Then Eric had to call off the visit.

The town was in despair.

And so began a battle by the Duke of Wellington’s Major Terry Butterworth and millionaire philanthropist Mr Jan Telensky to rescue the small town’s ambition.  First the pair approached the Royal Airforce inter-forces champs who were at the top of their game after winning a number of tournaments. But they were about to be posted to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Then the call went out to the Major Butterworth’s own regimental soccer team, The Dukes, and the answer came back ‘yes’. Major Butterworth now co-ordinates the Holidays4Heroes organisation which gives injured war heroes and their families free stays at what has been voted the world’s greenest hotel, AquaCity.

Owner of AquaCity Mr Telensky immediately flew the Dukes out to Poprad.

Major Terry Butterworth, who lives just outside Halifax, said: “It’s strange how things happen. I have been helping Jan fly injured UK war heroes to AquaCity as a thank you to them for protecting our way of life. Then Jan said he wanted to do something for the local football team too and I suggested Eric, who I know well but sadly he had to cancel.

“Then the RAF team got posted, so it was game over again. Suddenly though it struck me, my regimental team might be free.”

A call went out to the Dukes and the answer ‘yes’ came back.

And the match, dubbed ‘clash of the winter warriors’ was fought in sleet, rain and fog. The Dukes were trounced 10-1.

Team captain Crpl Adam Collington, aged 29, from Sheffield, said: “Our scoring was so bad we couldn’t believe it. At one point it actually looked like we were winning 0-1 … but it was because scoreboard only goes up to 9.”

Team manager, Nick Wilson, aged 40, from Barnsley, said: “We were well and truly trounced but it was worth it. We wanted to pay our respects to the town which hosts Holidays4Heroes. We’d all heard about what Mr Telensky is doing, giving holidays to our injured colleagues and we wanted to say thank you by helping out. 10-I is bad though.”

Mr Telensky, whose hotel was voted the greenest in the world because it is almost entirely powered by a thermal lake two miles underground, said: “The Poprad team have worked hard in the local leagues and have come a long way.

“They aren’t Europe’s Beckham or Giggs, they are just a hard-working team who are trying to get some recognition for the sporting efforts of this small burgeoning nation. They don’t earn big money because they are financed by the local authority.”

The victorious Poprad captain said: “Even though these people are our friends and we are grateful to them for making Christmas, we still won a very great victory.”

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