Cast and crew from Ted Lasso showed off their real life football skills (or lack thereof) in a charity match against a team representing Netflix’s Heart of Stone, and Subjectify’s somewhat reluctant football enthusiast has all the highlights.
It’s a rare beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, it’s the last day of the 2021/2022 football season, and I’m at the most anticipated match of the weekend.
No, not Manchester City v Aston Villa or Liverpool v Wolves, the outcomes of which will determine who, between City and Liverpool, will win the Premier League title, a race that’s, for the first time in a while, come down to the very final day.
I’m not at Tottenham Hotspur (#COYS) or Arsenal, both teams competing for the elusive fourth spot on this year’s league table that would send one of them to Europe for next season’s Champions League. And I’m not at either of the matches that will see Burnley or Leeds United fighting to not become the third team relegated to the Championship League for 2022/2023.
No, I am of course talking about the Mark Milsome Memorial Cup, where teams representing the upcoming Netflix movie Heart of Stone and the hit Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso are set to go head to head for glory, all in the name of raising awareness for a very special British film and TV industry charity, the Mark Milsome Foundation.
A few disclaimers:
- Whilst I am a fairly recent convert to this level of intense feelings about football, I am not an expert reviewer of football matches — this will probably become swiftly apparent at the extreme lack of any technical knowledge in this report (though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly technical game.)
- Nutmegging is about the only maneuver I can recognise mid-play, mostly thanks to following the nutmeg king Dele on Instagram. So if you read this match report and think “Wow, that sure was a lot of nutmegging, compared to any other tactic,” there’s a reason for that.
- I very rarely actually watch football matches as they’re happening, not even for my own team (#COYS) because I find it stressful. Deeply, deeply stressful. If I care even the slightest about the outcome of the match, I cannot bear to watch it in real time. You might think, but wait, how could you possibly care this much, to the point of anxiety, about the outcome of a social charity match between the cast and crew of two screen productions? Well…
- It seems that, unlike (or perhaps like, actually) the legendary Trent Crimm, I’m not cut out for the career of football correspondent, because I think they are supposed to be unbiased. I was not unbiased. It turns out that my love for Ted Lasso’s fictional professional football team AFC Richmond translated to loving an extremely non-professional team made up of a hodgepodge mix of their cast and crew. This report will gloss over most of Team Heart of Stone’s shots on goal, because every time the ball went anywhere near the goal being defended by Team Ted Lasso, I hid my face in the shoulder of my long-suffering little sister. I’m sorry, Heart of Stone, your film hasn’t even come out, so I’m just not invested in you yet. I’m definitely going to be watching it, I hear it’s got a screenplay by Greg Rucka, and The Old Guard is one of my favourites. But I’m Richmond ’til I die. Or something.
Now that that’s all out of the way, read on for an extremely biased, untechnical report of the 2022 Mark Milsome Memorial Cup.
The third annual Mark Milsome Memorial Cup took place at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, better known as Loftus Road, the home ground of Queen’s Park Rangers. The event aims to bring together film and TV industry cast and crew for a charity football match to raise money for and awareness of the Mark Milsome Foundation, a charity set up in honour of Mark Milsome, a British camera operator who was killed on set while filming a car stunt in 2017. The Foundation has two main aims — advocating for better health and safety practices on modern sets, and funding scholarships to support passionate young people who want to follow in Mark’s footsteps and break into the industry but who need help getting a foot in the door.
The Mark Milsome Memorial Cup was first held in 2019, and after missing a year due to COVID lockdown, it was brought back in 2021 for a match between the crews of Indiana Jones 5 and a Netflix production with the then working title “Essex” (Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman) at Selhurst Park, home of Crystal Palace. Selhurst Park also happens to be the stadium that stands in on screen as Ted Lasso’s Nelson Road, so a slight pity, realism wise, that it wasn’t held there again this year given that the actual Greyhounds are in the mix, but Selhurst was a bit busy that day as Palace was preparing to meet (and eventually beat) Manchester United at home. Good for them. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was electric in Loftus Road as hundreds of fans, friends and family members gathered to watch the crew members and occasional cast of these two productions take to the pitch.
Before any players emerge, Ted Lasso cast members Billy Harris (who plays Colin Hughes) and Charlie Hiscock (Will the Kitman) appear on the pitch, dressed up in their best football manager suits, ready to survey the landscape.
Harris and Hiscock surveying the stadium before the starting XIs take the field.
Charlie put cones down, he picked cones up. Billy had a tape measure. What he was doing with it, I don’t know. They walked the width of the pitch and back, Billy kicked the odd ball, and then as they continued to inspect the pitch, looking for who knows what, the players emerged from the tunnel, ready to warm up and start the game.
Team Lasso get off to a good start, scoring the first goal of the match 2 minutes and 3 seconds into the game. It’s a cracking goal from number 11, Dejon Mullings, who portrays Richmond forward Declan Cockburn. We’ve been told in interviews that football doubles are rarely used on Ted Lasso — opposition teams are usually semi-pro players, and most of the actors cast for the extended AFC Richmond squad had to prove their above-average football skills in the audition process. Mullings is not letting the side down in that department.
Excitement was high in the stands, and maybe on the pitch too as Team Lasso’s number 5, Tom Laven, somehow managed to nutmeg himself, losing the ball in the process a few minutes later. Team Lasso’s lead is short lived though — a penalty was awarded to Team Stone at the 11th minute and number 6, Ben Brown, scored. Don’t ask me what the penalty was for — eleven minutes in, I was already too stressed to watch with the ball that close to Team Lasso’s goal.
The rest of the first half of the first half (unlike the Premier League, these guys had a short drinks break every 22 minutes — Ted finally got a match with “all four quarters”) passed by without another goal. Team Lasso’s number 2 nutmegged Team Stone’s number 4, Team Stone made multiple substitutions, Team Lasso had around five shots on target and the first half of the first half (or first quarter, if you will) ended with a lot of touch football from the Ted Lasso side.
Harris sends in Big Dave.
After their drinks break, Richmond subbed on three new players — David “Big Dave” Elsendoorn, who plays Jan Maas, Moe Jeudy-Lamour, who plays goalkeeper Zoreaux, and Emmanuel Olukayode. Elsendoorn was a particularly enthusiastic player, making an early attempt at goal that unluckily went flying high over the top bar. His enthusiasm was matched by Heart of Stone’s Siggy Stone who, according to my notes, did the splits mid air whilst attempting to kick the ball. What these players lacked in skill, they made up for in sheer entertainment.
Minutes after the action resumed saw a period of intense pressure from Team Lasso. Mullings scored a second goal at the 25th minute, and moments later Lasso’s Moe Hashim, who plays Bumbercatch, had a lovely run down towards Team Stone’s goal, complete with some fancy footwork and a lovely pass to Mullings who unfortunately hit the crossbar with his shot at the goal.
Team Stone made yet another substitution, and it was at this moment I realised that both teams had already exceeded the usual number of subs allowed, but if the refs weren’t going to complain, neither was I. The commentator informs us all that Team Lasso were doing a great job of keeping control of the midfield. I’m not entirely sure what he meant, but it sounded official, and as such worth mentioning. During this time, Team Lasso had their tenth shot at the Stone goal, but it was saved by their goalie Nick Kemp. In the excitement, Lasso’s Jamie Steele lost his shoe and ran up the pitch holding it. It took him, honestly, a worrying amount of time to be able to get it back on his foot, but he got there in the end.
The highlight of the last few minutes of the first half was a nifty passing sequence from Hashim to “Big Dave” and back to Hashim, who took a shot at the goal, but it was saved by Kemp. The first half ended 2-1 to Ted Lasso, who, at this point in my notes, I start to refer to as Richmond, suggesting reality was blurring with fiction in my mind. According to the commentator, Team Ted Lasso had possession 75% of the time in the first half, and Team Heart of Stone 52% of the time, which leads me to the conclusion the commentator can’t count.
A stunning day at Loftus Road.
Halftime entertainment was provided by David Elsendoorn, in the form of him doing a very impressive handstand and a less impressive attempt at keep ups — he managed two. Then the teams were back on the pitch and ready to get going again.
The commentator helpfully reminded the crowd that, “for those of you who have never been to a football match before, at half time, the teams swap goals.”
Despite the aforementioned stress, I have absolutely been to a football match before, but I had, in fact, forgotten this detail, so this was a useful intervention.
The first few minutes of the second half really hammered home the sheer skill and professionalism of the players. Lasso’s number 16 had a clear shot at the goal as the ball rolled in front of him, but he seemed too stunned to move, and it got taken away by a Heart of Stone player. Shortly after this, Hashim did a lovely backward flick of the ball, but sadly nobody behind him was paying attention and the ball rolled off the pitch.
We then entered a period of foul play. Team Stone’s Ben Brown was rightly called out by the ref for a handball — well more of a punchball really. He followed it up by kicking Lasso’s Jamie Steele, who didn’t actually seem to notice the foul — and neither did the referee.
After a good ten minutes with many missed goals and excellent saves on both sides, Heart of Stone equalised at the 57th minute. I’d like to be able to tell you who scored — it was either Jack Bees, Ben Brown or Terry Archer — but I was too busy hiding my face, and my sister was too distracted by my iron grip on her forearm, for either of us to notice. Nevertheless, a goal to Heart of Stone and the score was 2 all!
At this point I commented out loud on yet another nutmeg, causing my sister to muse on whether or not I like nutmegs because they feature part of my name, which would make sense because she likes words like Myelin Sheath and Michelin because they feature her name. I hadn’t actually considered this, mostly because people are not permitted to call me Meg.
Another ten minutes or so pass without a goal, but plenty of chances and a great run by Mullings which ended in a corner for Team Lasso and a scrum in front of the Heart of Stone goal, but no successful shots. Shortly after this, Billy Harris subbed off Mullings, a bold and possibly stupid move considering he was Team Lasso’s only goal scorer at this point, but I’m no expert. Neither is Harris, though.
By this point, the crowd, which is heavily stacked with Ted Lasso supporters, appears to be suffering from the same delusion as I am, and begin singing a number of Richmond themed chants from the show. The Heart of Stone supporters don’t seem to have any chants of their own, but, as my sister pointed out, it is a film about spies, and if spies had a chant they sang whilst going off to do their spying business, it might give the game away a bit.
Ted Lasso producer Adam “Chip” Hamilton celebrates by taking off his shirt to reveal another shirt underneath. He, like me and many other fans, has gotten reality and fiction confused in regards to what his team is.
Tensions are starting to rise at this point. Moe Hashim nutmegs Ben Brown, but loses the ball in front of the Heart of Stone goal. He takes the corner, but the ball is intercepted by Brown. Hashim has spent too much time playing a footballer on TV, because he’s challenging the ref over some decision or other. I’d like to tell you what, but I have no idea. The point is he looks like every real footballer that’s ever argued with a referee.
Hashim, I recall, is the person most often lauded by those involved with Ted Lasso, from Phil Dunster, who plays star striker Jamie Tartt, to the show’s football director Pedro Romhanyi, as the most skilled player in the group, so perhaps he’s one of the ones who comes from a somewhat professional background, because he clearly knows what he’s doing. Either way, it’s very convincing and whatever they’re arguing about I’m sure Hashim is right.
We’re into the mid-second-half drinks break. Hashim, perhaps spurred on by his argument with the referee, is giving Team Lasso a proper pep talk. I don’t know what he’s saying, but there are a lot of hand gestures and he looks very passionate.
Hashim’s third quarter pep talk.
As the second half of the second half kicks off, I invent my own little football chant and sing it to myself under my breath. It goes: “I find this very stressful, because I want the fictional tv show team to win.”
Mullings seems to have been brought back on for the last part of the game, much to my relief. He takes a shot at the Stone goal, but Kemp, or whoever is currently their goalie, I’ve lost track saves it. It’s followed by a face-off between Mullings and Brown, with the ball ending up with Hashim who takes another shot but this one is too high.
Tom Hendryk — who plays Richmond’s other goalie O’Brien, and who started the game in goal but is now playing as a forward? Midfielder? somewhere near the front — gets fouled, in my completely unbiased opinion, but much to his (and my) disgust, it’s ignored by the ref. I contemplate starting a chant of “The referee’s a wanker” but it’s a family friendly event — a fact ignored by a very excitable Ted Lasso fan who later yelled at a player to “just fucking dunk it!” I think that might be basketball?
Dodgy decisions aside, Team Lasso gets their revenge moments later with a brilliant goal by Hashim. The score is 3-2 to Richmond and the stadium erupts.
The celebrations are short lived though. The commentator, for some deranged reason, is desperate for it to go to a penalty shoot out, and he gets his wish when a few minutes later Andy Woodcock from Team Stone scores again, and it’s equal once more.
Team Lasso push hard for the last few minutes for a final goal, but to no avail and the whistle blows for full time with a score of 3-3 and it’s on to penalties. At some point around now, Kola Bokinni (Richmond captain Isaac McAdoo) and Cristo Fernández (Dani Rojas) arrive on the sidelines in plain clothes in order to support their team. They’d been listed in the programme as part of the Ted Lasso squad, but from the looks of Twitter, it seems they possibly had some media commitments earlier in the day. Stephen Manas, who plays Richard, and who had previously been watching from the stands in a Montlaur #8 shirt, suddenly pops up on the pitch as well.
Both teams nervously gather to watch the penalty shootout. Team Lasso are joined by Cristo Fernández and Kola Bokinni, who came out to support the final moments.
I wish I could have enjoyed their presence more, but you’ll be shocked to hear that in a sport that I find stressful to watch from start to finish, penalty shootouts are the worst of all. Too much history, too much drama, and then the person that misses feels the weight of the loss so heavily on their shoulders. Gareth Southgate will never forget, and neither will I. All that aside, this afternoon’s penalty shootout went something like this:
Dejon Mullings from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Kiri Louric from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Moe Hashim from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Ben Brown from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Joe Street from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Ryan Fitzpatrick from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Jamie Steele from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Andy Woodcock from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Ugo Ejiegbu from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Duncan Steven from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Tanaka Mandimika from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Mack Behan from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Prashray Panday from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Siggy Stone from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
Adam “Chip” Hamilton from Ted Lasso shoots, he scores!
Terry Archer from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores!
David “Big Dave” Elsendoorn from Ted Lasso shoots……. Fucking saved.
My sisters’ words, not mine, but I must miserably agree.
Anyway, Mark Osborne from Heart of Stone shoots, he scores and the game is over!
Ted Lasso’s David “Big Dave” Elsendoorn overcome with emotion at missing his penalty, resulting in his team’s loss.
And there you have it. Highs, lows and non-stop thrills, but victory goes to Heart of Stone. Which goes to show that just because you make a show about footballers on TV doesn’t mean you can actually play football. Unless you’re Moe Hashim or Dejon Mullings. It turns out they can do both.
And now for a few awards, as decided by me.
Man (men) of the match: Ted Lasso cast members Billy Harris and Charlie Hiscock for really committing to their roles as gaffers. They helped set up cones for the warm up! They had fancy suits, that must have been far too hot given the sun! They were seen on multiple occasions pretending to make notes in what appeared to be a blank notebook! They gesticulated wildly at anything and everything! At one point Billy was either signaling for number 2 to be subbed, or flipping the bird at a ref.
Actual man of the match: Dejon Mullings, Moe Hashim and Ben Brown. Mullings was awarded the official trophy for this achievement.
Best football butt: Decided by me but cosigned by my two companions, the winner is number 99 of Team Ted Lasso, Emmanuel Olukayode. Ooof.
Best nutmeg: It’s gotta still be Team Lasso’s Tom Laven nutmegging himself, an instant classic.
Most enthusiastic: David “Big Dave” Elsendoorn. Sure, he missed the penalty, but look how much fun he’s having!
Departing Loftus Road is not actually the end of my Sunday football experience though. After the Mark Milsome match, I have to make a mad dash to get a plane back up to the Scottish Highlands and it’s only once I’m safely on the train to Gatwick Airport that I settle down to check the day’s less important scores.
Spurs, for once, are causing me no stress at all — they’re up 4-0 against the unfortunate Norwich and I feel fairly confident that even they can’t Spurs it up badly enough to lose this late in the game. Sure enough, they are now back in the Champions League despite a, let’s kindly say, underwhelming start to the season, and my darling Son Heung-min has a Golden Boot, to boot.
Leeds are doing alright too. Based purely on my love for outspoken queer ally Patrick Bamford, I didn’t want them to get relegated and thanks to a 2-1 win against Brentford they narrowly held onto their spot in the Premier League.
It’s the top spot that leaves me too stressed to keep reading updates. Perhaps controversially, as both a Ted Lasso fan and a real football fan, I wanted City to win the league this year (Look! I’m a big fan of a few of their players, but Liverpool already won the FA and the Carabao and have a shot at the Champions League title! They don’t need all four! It’s greedy! Also, deeply unfortunately, I’m not immune to the whole Jack Grealish situation. I love him to distraction, and I really wanted him to get a shiny prize) so seeing them down 2-0 to Aston Villa was enough to make me close my phone and promise to stay away from the scores until it was over.
Except then the father and son sitting opposite me started updating each other every time a goal happened, I couldn’t avoid overhearing, and by the time City had scored three goals in five minutes to take the lead once more, I’d engaged them in conversation. It turns out they were Sunderland supporters, down to watch the League One promotion play-off at Wembley. They were ecstatic enough about Sunderland making it back into the Championship League that they didn’t judge me wanting City to win the Prem. I know all about the demise of Sunderland after researching the realism behind what Ted Lasso has shown us of Roy Kent’s career, and we spent the rest of the journey to Gatwick talking football. Because apparently I am now someone who talks to strangers about my feelings on a silly game played by 22 rich boys that is having an increasingly dramatic impact on my life.
For me, outside of my longtime family connection to Spurs, my football fannishness is very rarely about loyalty to a specific team. The teams that I want to do well get my support due to me learning something about a particular player that makes me love them as a human being (or, in the case of my current loathing of Manchester United, hating one player and so hating them all for backing him) and then I want the team to win, so that my one player is happy.
Watching Ted Lasso has only made this habit worse. The way that this show makes you recognize the grand storytelling elements that present themselves in football — the dramatic stakes in sports that feel mile-high in the moment but are, in fact, honestly pretty safe emotionally, because at the end of the day it’s not life or death, it’s just a kids’ game with a lot of money injected into it — has made real-life examples of a great bit of football story leap out at me all the more.
Whether it’s the history and community of these clubs, the impact a win or a loss or a transfer can have on a player, a meaningful friendship or rivalry, Ted Lasso’s empathetic portrayal of the beautiful game has ramped up my interest in the frankly film-like narratives found in real-life football tenfold. It’s got me researching why certain things are significant in order for me to care about it more deeply. I mean, the way City fans knew that the tide was about to turn just from the way Kevin De Bruyne laced up his boots? You couldn’t script that. It’s too good.
So I guess this is what I do now: spend hours of every day reading, watching, talking and writing about football, fictional or otherwise, and with Ted Lasso set to wrap up at the end of season 3, I’m just glad I got the chance to see a semblance of AFC Richmond play for real, and for a great cause. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but football is, to my astonishment, life.
All embedded photos credited with thanks to @S_Mittermeier