Special Merseyside Derby kicks off gold medal rush at World Boccia Championships
It was a clash of the titans when the blues took on the reds for the first time this season.
But this Merseyside derby was at neither Goodison Park, nor Anfield.
In fact, it was a whole different ball game!
Everton’s Chief Executive Professor Denise Barrett-Baxendale went head to head with Liverpool FC’s Chief Executive Peter Moore for a very special guest match to launch the first finals day at the BISFed 2018 Word Boccia Championships.
Arriving to the walk on music Z-Cars and You’ll Never Walk Alone, Denise and Peter competed in the very first “boccia derby” to help raise awareness of the disability sport and its competitiveness.
In front of a passionate crowd on the show court at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool, the friendly rivals contested a tightly fought match consisting of four ends, with Peter eventually running out a 3-1 winner.
The championships, featuring 190 athletes from 33 nations, runs from 12-18 August and will see Britain’s super-human, Paralympic athletes take on the world’s best at this thrilling game.
Battling it out for seven world titles, as well as crucially important ranking points ahead of the Tokyo Paralympic Games in 2020, boccia demands muscle control and precision and requires the ultimate concentration and skill.
Hopes are riding high for the British team with gold medal games in the four individual sections to be decided today before the paired matches begin tomorrow.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, whose office invited the Mersey rivals to the tournament, said: “I’m delighted Everton and Liverpool accepted our invitation to compete at the BISFed 2018 Word Boccia Championships as it demonstrates the city’s passion for sport in all its forms.
“I can only applaud the attitude of both clubs in their commitment to the city’s wider sporting community and Denise and Peter in particular were such good sports to support such a prestigious tournament in this way.
As an Evertonian, I’m obviously disappointed Denise lost but in my eyes everyone won today – not least all those competing who got a real flavour of the sporting pride and passion this city is world famous for.”
Liverpool FC CEO, Peter Moore, said: “Boccia is a great sport, used frequently during the LFC Foundation’s ‘Respect for All’ accessible sport sessions, so I’ve had the opportunity to experience the game a couple of times, but playing today against our friends from across Stanley Park to celebrate the World Boccia Championships was a lot of fun.
“I’m delighted to see major events like this continue to be hosted here and receive a very warm welcome from our city.”
Everton CEO, Prof. Denise Barrett-Baxendale said: “Playing boccia this morning was really enjoyable and it was an honour to try my hand at the game alongside Peter. It is a game of skill, patience and tactics but what stood out for me is that it truly is an inclusive sport.
“Boccia is enjoyed by Everton in the Community participants and forms a part of the disability awareness sessions we host in schools across Merseyside and was also included in the Everton in the Community Special Olympics which brought SEN schools from across the city together to celebrate inclusive sport. The competitors at these World Championships are role models and show what can be achieved with hard work, practice and dedication.
“Liverpool is a great host city for the World Boccia Championships. Liverpool City Council have been working hard to make the city as accessible as possible and was recently voted one of the UK’s most accessible cities in the Euan’s Guide. The 190 athletes from 33 countries will certainly enjoy a warm scouse welcome during the championships.”
Chair of Boccia UK, John Dowson, added: “The World Championships is our shop window for the sport of boccia. We are determined to use this world class week of boccia action to inspire more people to play. It’s fantastic that we have the support of this brilliant city which is famous the world over for its passion for sport. We were thrilled to bring these two exceptional clubs together in support of boccia.”