Football at an arts festival? Comedians stand up for one of their own

I’m in the unusual position of being sunburned in Scotland, after spending yesterday at the Comedians vs Critics football match at Edinburgh’s Meadowbank stadium.
The final scoreline was 3-2 to the comedians and both teams played their hearts out for jailed Burmese comedian Zarganar. I even missed the first home match of my beloved Nottingham Forest, broadcast live on Sky, to be at the Edinburgh game.

Sensational goals from comedians Simon Brodkin, Danny McLaughlin and Doc Brown catapulted the comedians into an early lead. But a second half comeback from the critics, with goals from the List’s Peter Geoghegan and Nick Eardley from Fest magazine, teed it up for a nail-biting finish. Another ten minutes and they could have pulled level.

 Special mention to Lee Kern for the comedians, who was a ‘handful’ in front of goal, and Eric Lampert who not only played in goal for the comedians wearing sunglasses and cowboy boots, but also made at least three spectacular saves.

In a game billed as “such a grudge match they had to get Amnesty International to referee”, most players showed respect for each others’ human rights. The Amnesty International referee Gianmaria Bandiera rarely had to blow his whistle.

You can see pics of the game here

Both sides proudly wore the name of Zarganar on their shirts to highlight our campaign to secure his release from prison in Burma. Zarganar, one of Burma’s most famous comedians, was jailed for 35 years in 2008 after he criticised the government. Take action at www.amnesty.org.uk/zarganar.

Comedians captain Rob Rouse accepted a trophy at the end and duly showered his team-mates in cheap champagne. He told me afterwards:
“Playing to help Amnesty’s campaign for Zarganar gave the comedians’ side that extra bit of fighting spirit to hold on to our lead. At the end of the day the result was never in doubt except for quite a large wobble in the last ten minutes.
“Everyone gave 110 per cent, Brian, and I’m proud of the way the boys conducted themselves today. I’d also like to give credit to our opponents but the game really was played in the spirit of true sportsmen and the style of under-14’s netball.
“Football really was the winner today.”

The Guardian sent its video team to the game, so look out for their match report on guardian.co.uk tomorrow, as well as the next Amnesty podcast, with a brilliant match report complete with ‘the return of the vuvuzuela’.

The Amnesty Edinburgh Festival team are now sunburned, exhausted and excited about this Thursday’s Stand Up For Freedom gig at the EICC, which has pretty much sold out bar for the last 40 or so tickets. Today we confirmed the addition of Emo Philips and Doc Brown to the line-up, joining John Bishop, Mark Watson, Josie Long, 2009 award-winner Tim Key, Dan Antopolski and Danielle Ward, with Fred MacAulay and Adam Hills compering the event. Get in fast if you’re in Edinburgh at www.amnesty.org.uk/edfest

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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