Karen Carney: Soccer Aid rivalries and pushing for £100 million

Karen Carney poses for her Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2024 shoot
Karen Carney will return to Soccer Aid for UNICEF this year

England legend Karen Carney will return to the Soccer Aid stage this summer as the world’s biggest charity football match looks to crack the £100 million mark in donations to UNICEF.

The annual event is preparing for its 13th edition since its creation by Robbie Williams and Jonathan Wilkes in 2006. Since the first Soccer Aid match, UNICEF has raised a total of £90 million. Last year, a record £14.6 million was added to the overall tally. This means 2024 could see Soccer Aid hit nine figures.

On June 9th, Soccer Aid will return to London for a highly-anticipated match under the lights of Stamford Bridge. England will look to break the World XI’s five-year winning streak at the home of Chelsea. Club icons Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard and current men’s manager Mauricio Pochettino are listed in the initial lineups.

Carney, who spent the final four years of her career at Chelsea, will feature in her second Soccer Aid for UNICEF match. The Lioness will be reunited with former teammate Jill Scott, who will captain the England side.

Karen Carney returns to Soccer Aid

Ahead of Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2024, Carney spoke with Her Football Hub about returning to the pitch and pushing for £100 million in charity donations.

“I really enjoyed it last year, there were so many good people involved. Then I wanted to hopefully do it again this year, so I’m lucky to be able to do it again. So I’m really looking forward to it.

“I’m not sure I missed getting substituted off by Emma Hayes! But it was good to see Jill, although she came off and I came on, so I was a bit gutted we weren’t on at the same time. But it was good to play with Eni [Aluko], and Izzy [Christiansen] was on the other side, so it was really good.

“Kaylyn [Kyle] played and then Heather O’Reilly as well. That was quite good because I’ve played a lot against [O’Reilly] over the years, so it was good to see her on the pitch and how incredible she is. She’s still so fit, she could easily still play professionally.”

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Soccer Aid nights under big stadium lights

Stamford Bridge will host Soccer Aid for UNICEF for the second time this year. Previous years have seen the popular charity match hosted at Wembley, the Etihad, and West Ham’s London Stadium. However, no stadium has hosted more Soccer Aid matches than Old Trafford.

The Theatre of Dreams has seen England vs. the World XI clash on eight occasions, and for Carney, it was a real bucket-list-ticking moment.

“It was wicked. I’d never played at Old Trafford before. During the warm-up, I was kicking the ball about with Eni, Jill and Izzy, and I looked over and I saw Paul Scholes knocking the ball around. So I said to Jill, ‘I’ve got to go mate,’ and I left them and went for a knock around with Paul Scholes,” she reflected.

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“I had about 10–20 passes with him, and I said, ‘Scholesy, I’m going to go back to my mates now. Thanks for fulfilling a dream for me.’

“Of course, the main objective of Soccer Aid is to raise as much money as possible for UNICEF. We raised £14.6 million last year. But if you’re talking about football, playing on the same pitch as Paul Scholes was pretty special. You can really see why he was one of the best players in world football.”

England vs World XI rivalry

With £100 million in sight, there is a monumental push to hit the milestone this year. The money raised from this year’s game could help UNICEF protect children from disease and malnutrition, support their mental health and respond in times of crisis, so they can get back to learning when schools are destroyed. It could also help provide vaccines to prevent common childhood diseases such as measles, so that children around the world can grow up happy, healthy and able to play.

Everyone shares the mission of raising money for UNICEF, but there cannot be a football match without the intense desire to win. England will be looking for their first Soccer Aid win since 2018 when they beat the World XI on penalties.

“Everyone’s really lovely but when it comes to the game, there’s definitely a rivalry,” Carney said. “And obviously, there’s added pressure for Team England to win, and I think there’s additional pressure this year. You’re dealing with high performers in different aspects, not just sports. The high performers want to be the best in anything that they do. So yeah, there’s definitely competitiveness.

Read: Soccer Aid for UNICEF 2024 lineup revealed, including Lionesses legends

“It’s a brilliant few days, you meet some incredible people, but the reason why we’re there is to raise money for UNICEF and to hear those stories to see the bigger picture. The football is an added bonus, but this is so much more than 90 minutes of football.”

We have still yet to see a woman get on the scoresheet in a Soccer Aid for UNICEF match. Recent years have seen the likes of Kelly Smith, Eni Aluko, Chelcee Grimes and other trailblazing women push to hit the back of the net, but with no success. Could 2024 finally be the year?

Tickets for the game are on sale now via socceraid.org.uk/tickets with a family of four able to attend for £60 — two adults and two children. Tickets include access to a pre-game ‘Fan Zone’ and ‘Player Arrivals Area’.

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