The sun blazed down, the bands punched out a pulsating musical backdrop and the aromas wafting across from the adjacent field lured spectators to an array of international cuisine.
This was the Hull and East Yorkshire World Cup, a remarkable sporting and multicultural event which brought together people from more than 30 nations, and the PR project which remains my all-time favourite.
The sponsors, MWS Group, asked me to promote their involvement and to ensure the tournament raised awareness of the organisers, the Goodwin Trust. The initial approach was cautious as we considered the potential of the event, and where any pitfalls might arise.
But very soon it became clear the sky was the limit. Everyone at Goodwin was bursting with ambition, and everyone at MWS was ready to back them.
The thinking was that with the 2010 World Cup having taken place in South Africa it would be good to have something closer to home. A quick look round the local community identified enough nationalities to put together a sizeable competition.
Whether any short cuts were taken in building the numbers I wouldn’t know. Some of the footballers supposedly from Colombia looked rather more like rugby players from Ireland, but 31 teams assembled on the outdoor pitches at the Bonus Arena on Sunday 10 July 2011.
Aficionados of the beautiful game would have been disappointed that the only no-show was Brazil. They would also be unconvinced by the excuse – that the team playing in the name of Pele, Garrincha, Socrates and the rest had to come all the way from Goole.
The Hull and East Yorkshire World Cup was covered as a news event and was also reported in some business publications. The TV crews came along, captivated by the buzz of communities coming together.
Events on the pitches have faded somewhat over the years but Chris Warkup, writing for Sport Humber, recalls as I do that Iraq won the cup. I thought they beat the Kurdish team in the final; Chris reckoned it was the Democratic Republic of Congo.
England, true to form, fell in the semi-finals, losing on penalties to the eventual winners. The headlines in the Yorkshire Post the next day focused on South Sudan, a nation only established on the Saturday and making its international sporting debut in Hull.
It’s not difficult to promote an event like that and the media were on board from the outset, intrigued by the level of ambition and enlightened to find so many different nationalities collaborating in our city and region.
I claim full credit for what happened when the time came to give the story another push as we counted down to the big day. What did we need that would really make the Hull World Cup fly? An anthem! Where could we get one? Ted Key!
As luck would have it, the founding member of The Housemartins had just launched a new venture, Your Songs, accepting commissions from business and from individuals to write music for their special occasions.
He’d never written or performed an anthem for a World Cup of anything, but he came up with the perfect composition. “We’re all in the World Cup” was one of those bouncy, sing-along numbers that you can’t get out of your head however much you try. Ted demonstrated his genius by including the name of every competing nation and managing to make them scan.
We invited them all to join in when we invaded the studio at Hull Community Church where Nick Langley recorded the chorus. Thankfully only four or five teams responded, and each only sent a few members. The place was packed with World Cup wannabes clapping, cheering, waving their national flags and heading a football around the room.
Before the session Ted said: “I was delighted to come on board because writing songs for celebrations is what I do. We’ve recorded a rough version of the track and now need to put a few more groovy sounds on it and tidy it up a bit. Then we’re going to get the footballers to sing the ‘la’ bits and the chorus.”
The TV loved it as Ted coached the footballers through their musical duties, and he took centre stage again to lead the Iraq team in song as they celebrated after their victory.
JJ Tatten, who at the time was the Marketing and Communications Manager for the Goodwin Development Trust, said: “The song is a great way of promoting the event itself – it underlines the hard work everyone at Goodwin is putting in to make the event a real community festival with fantastic football, music and food from around the world.
“We’re in the same position now as most other World Cups of the modern age. We know the footballers can play a bit – we’re about to find out whether they can sing.”
JJ also hit the nail on the head with his comments on the wider benefits of the tournament, and recent events suggest they’re even more valid now than they were nearly 10 years ago.
He said: “The Goodwin Hull and East Yorkshire World Cup Football Festival is about so much more than football. The event is all about celebrating what unites us – our community, our city, our family and friends and our passion for sport.”
Wouldn’t it be great to do it again?
It’s 40 years this year since Phil Ascough, our most prolific freelance contributor, arrived in Hull to begin a new episode in his journalistic career. Having spent two years on the weekly Doncaster Gazette, Phil headed east to the Hull Daily Mail. Apart from three years on the Royal Gazette in Bermuda and a short spell at the Teesside Gazette, he’s been here ever since. He worked for the Yorkshire Post and the BBC before returning to the Mail and becoming business editor. He moved into sports media with the Press Association in Leeds and then Howden, and set up his own PR consultancy in 2010. To mark the anniversary he has set out to write 40 essays looking at his career, our city and its people.