World Cup call-up for Earlston football veteran

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Borders footballer has found himself representing Scotland – despite retiring from the professional ranks almost 20 years ago.

Former Gala and Selkirk coach Ali McCulloch, 49, has been chosen as part of the 22-man squad which will travel to Thailand to represent Scotland in the FISA Seniors World Cup at the beginning of June.

Ali told The Southern: “It was a real surprise when I got the call from the Seniors’ manager Alan McTurk, but he explained that he needed a left-sided defender and several of the squad, who I played with at Cowdenbeath FC, suggested to him that I may still be alive and kicking.

“I am honoured to be part of the outfit which, having played in some warm-up matches, is a crack squad full of ex-pros including Charlie Christie, Stevie Tosh, Jason Dair and Ian McCaldon, headed by McTurk and coach Paul Donnelly.”

A strict age criteria means the 22-man squad will have to include three 38-44 year olds four 45-49 year olds and three players over 50.

“For me, it’s simply a very special opportunity and one that enables me to finish off my career the way it started as a youth.”

Earlston resident Ali signed for Raith Rovers FC at the age of 17 where he spent four happy seasons.

He was capped for Scotland at Under-18 schoolboys and youth with players such as Ian McCall, the McStays, John Robertson, Davie Bowman, Gary Mackay and the like.

“I was capped eight times during the early stages of my career and to get the call as a senior is very special,” he added.

The Seniors event will be held between June 1-10 in Thailand, with the final games held at the national stadium in Bangkok, and Ali and the team are very serious about trying to bring the cup back.

He told us: “The event is mainly for fun but try telling that to the team and manager who are as vocal now as they were when they were being paid to play.”

The squad has teamed up with Maggie’s Cancer Centre and the trip will be funded through support from several fundraising events to cover costs, with any excess going to the charity. They will spend much of their time coaching local kids and distributing football kits donated by willing partners, including Liverpool, Aberdeen and Ross County.

Anyone interested in contributing, whether it’s sponsorship, money or spare kit for the kids, can contact McTurk on alan.mcturkjnr@edf-energy.com or McCulloch on ajmcculloch@btinternet.com