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Features: When celebrities become footballers

Celebrity and football has become intertwined over recent years, with many of the sport's top players becoming household names away from the pitch.

However, it is not quite as common for people from other industries to take up a career in professional football after they have become famous, although it is not impossible.

League Two Crawley Town certainly believe in tapping into the celebrity market and there could well be a famous face or two pitching up at Broadfield Stadium in the near future.

Crawley teaming up with The Sidemen

It has been an underwhelming start to the season for Crawley in English football's fourth tier, as they currently sit 20th in the standings after winning just one of their opening nine league fixtures.

Kevin Betsy's side are 9/2 to be relegated and outsiders at 25/1 to be promoted, which suggests it could be a season of struggle for the Red Devils unless things pick up quickly.

Crawley's owners, WAGMI United, certainly have loftier ambitions than the club's current standing suggests, as they want to make the West Sussex outfit "the internet's team".

That has led them to team up with YouTube collective The Sidemen, whose most famous member is Olajide "JJ" Olatunji, better known of course as KSI.

KSI and the rest of the collective play an annual charity football match that this year will take place at Charlton Athletic's home ground, The Valley, and tickets for Saturday's fixture have already sold out.

Among the attendees will be scouts from Crawley, who will be looking to add one or two famous faces to their squad primarily for this year's FA Cup, with the first round of that competition due to take place over the first weekend of November.

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"We know this is an unconventional idea. But we've never been shy about doing things differently," Crawley's co-chairman Preston Johnson said.

"We're excited about partnering with The Sidemen and the opportunity to scout their charity match to potentially identify a couple of quality footballers who can join the club ahead of our first FA Cup match."

KSI is one of the players that may be looking to catch the eyes of the Crawley scouts, while among the other famous faces set to be in action in south London this weekend is American YouTuber Logan Paul.

Celebrity players nothing new for Crawley

Crawley are no strangers to mixing the world of football and celebrity, as two seasons ago reality TV star Mark Wright joined the Red Devils on non-contract terms.

Wright had plenty of football pedigree having spent time in the youth teams of West Ham, Arsenal and Tottenham, while he also briefly played for Crawley when they were a non-league club during the 2006/07 season.

Having also starred in various editions of the celebrity charity match Soccer Aid, Wright went on to feature twice for Crawley during the 2020/21 season, including in their memorable 3-0 FA Cup third-round victory over Leeds United.

Tomlinson had more than One Direction

Singer Louis Tomlinson is most famous for being a member of boyband One Direction, but he is also an avid supporter of Doncaster Rovers and he famously joined his boyhood club in February 2014.

Tomlinson made just one appearance for Rovers, coming on as a substitute during a reserve-team friendly with Rotherham - a match that would have usually been attended by a hundred or so spectators, but on this occasion more than 5,000 turned up.

It is safe to say Tomlinson's music career has been a bit more successful than his football one, but it is the "Little Things" that make up the "History" of a person's life.

Famous faces in football

While the likes of Wright and Tomlinson tried their hands at football after they were famous, other celebrities were trying to make it in the game long before they entered the public eye.

Chef Gordon Ramsay is more famous for his antics in the kitchen, but the Scot was a fledgling footballer as a youngster, even enjoying a trial at Rangers before injuries put paid to his chances of forging a career on the pitch.

Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith also saw his playing career ended by injuries before it really got started. The talented actor represented Northampton Town, Leicester City and Nottingham Forest as a teenager, playing alongside the likes of Jermaine Jenas, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid at the latter.

Rapper MC Harvey was a regular in non-league circles during the noughties, representing teams such as AFC Wimbledon, Aldershot Town and Lewes, while fellow musician Olly Murs was on the books of Witham Town prior to his big break on The X Factor.

Rod Stewart, Julio Iglesias, Sean Connery and Johnny Marr are among the other famous names that attempted to forge out careers in football with various degrees of success.

Whether Crawley can find the next celebrity-turn-footballer remains to be seen, but it may be worth keeping your eye on the team that currently sits 88th in the Football League.

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