CELTIC LEGEND, Stiliyan Petrov will be among a host of stars taking part in the Ryan McBride Foundation Soccer Sixes in Derry on May 5th next in honour of Derry City’s much loved skipper who passed away two years ago.
The former Bulgarian international made 312 appearances for Celtic, scoring 55 goals and winning the Scottish Premier League title four times during his seven year stint at the club.
The Ryan McBride Foundation last night confirmed that it had secured Petrov, the former Glasgow Celtic and Aston Villa midfielder, for this year’s star-studded event - a major coup for the foundation set up in Ryan’s name after he passed away unexpectedly in his sleep, aged 27.
Petrov will line out at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium alongside ex-Celtic favourites, the “Derry Pele” Paddy McCourt, ex-skipper, Jackie McNamara, Simon Donnelly, Tom Boyd, Rab Douglas, Mark Wilson and Mark Burchill for what is expected to be a sell-out event sponsored by sportswear giants O’Neills.
And Ryan’s sister, Caitlin said she was thrilled the Bulgarian agreed to take part which further showed the esteem in which the Brandywell native is held.
“It shows yet again the high esteem in which Ryan was held far beyond his beloved home city and that continues to make our family extremely proud approaching the second anniversary of his death on 19th March.”
Celtic will compete against defending champions, Derry City, a Republic of Ireland legends team and a PFAI League of Ireland select which includes domestic stars such as ex-Dundalk captain, Stephen O’Donnell, former Cameroon international, Joseph N’Do, Fabio O’Brien, Gary McCabe and Killian Brennan.
It won’t be the first time the likes of Alan Stubbs, McNamara, Boyd and Donnelly have faced Derry City having played against the ‘97 League of Ireland champions in an Irish International Soccer tournament at Lansdowne Road in July 1997.
Celtic’s last visit to Brandywell was in 2008 as part of McCourt’s transfer to the Parkhead club when Ben Hutchinson hit the winner for an understrength Hoops outfit in front of 3,000 fans. Before that, ex-Celtic manager, Martin O’Neill brought his star-studded team to Foyleside in 2000 for a friendly which helped cash-strapped Derry to the tune of approximately £70,000 as 9,000 supporters packed into the venue with Celtic clinching a 2-1 win.
As the team of Celtic legends arrive at the same venue on May 5th next, Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neills - lead sponsors of the Ryan McBride Soccer Sixes – said he was delighted that Petrov and co. were on their way to the North West especially for the event.
Congratulating the Ryan McBride Foundation on ‘signing’ Petrov, the O’Neills’ boss said: “I am sure football fans both locally and further afield will share our excitement at this news.
“Petrov, and indeed all of the teams taking part in the Soccer Sixes, can be assured of a massive welcome from both the organisers and all those fans lucky enough to secure tickets.”
Petrov (39), who played as a midfielder, joined Celtic from CSKA Sofia in 1999, and won 10 trophies in his time at Celtic Park. In 2006, he moved to Aston Villa along with his former manager Martin O’Neill.
Bulgaria’s all-time most capped player, he was successfully treated for acute leukaemia in 2012 and later retired from professional football. The Stiliyan Petrov Foundation (SPF) was established in 2013 to help revolutionise the way leukaemia and cancer are treated. The Soccer Sixes – with action-packed family fun day activities - will kick-off in the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium at 1pm on May 5th. Tickets are £25 adult, £10 child, £60 family of four.
Tickets for the Gala Ball at the City Hotel that evening with Scouse impressionist and online star Darren Farley providing the after-dinner entertainment, are £60/table £600.