Beckham to Barton: footballers take the ice bucket challenge

Chilly charity stunt goes global as footballers nominate their team-mates and rivals

Joey Barton
(Image credit: Instagram)

They're all at it, the great and the good of football, and even Joey Barton. What are we talking about? The ice bucket challenge, in which someone either donates $100 to charity or pours some freezing water over their head and gets away with a smaller donation.

What began more than a year ago as a fund-raising gimmick for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease after the legendary baseball player who died from the condition in 1941, has since become a global phenomenon - and sportsmen and women are leading the way.

It started gaining momentum in June when presenters on a US golf programme, 'Morning Drive', performed an ice bucket challenge live on air and, as is so often the way, what started in the States soon took off in Britain. The only difference is that most of the money being raised by the challenges goes to Motor Neurone Disease Association.

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The challenge has spread like wildfire through the world of sport, and when David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo take part, as they did earlier this week, you know it has "arrived".

John Terry celebrated Chelsea's 3-1 defeat of Burnley in their opening Premier League match of the season on Monday by throwing a bucket of icy water over his head, and on Wednesday it was another of football's bad boys who took the plunge – literally.

Joey Barton has built a career on doing things his way and the QPR midfielder lived up to his reputation when he rose to the challenge laid down by QPR vice-chairman Amit Bhatia and former team-mate Bradley Orr. Instead of tipping a bucket over his head, Barton jumped into an ice bath wearing only his underpants, a sight so terrible it brings back memories of Wayne Rooney's hair transplant.

As is the custom with the ice-bucket challenge Barton then nominated three people to continue the stunt: golfer Lee Westwood, his former Newcastle team-mate Steve Harper, and professional irritant Piers Morgan.

Barton wasn't the only footballer getting in on the ice bucket act. Former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who had to retire from the sport in 2012 after suffering a heart attack in a Premier League match against Tottenham, gamely accepted the challenge, as did Holland and Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp, now a coach at Ajax. Having been nominated by Tottenham's Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, Bergkamp looked a little apprehensive as he steadied himself for a shower. Promising to have his revenge on Eriksen, Bergkamp also named three more candidates: his son and two of his former Arsenal teammates from the 'Invincibles' side of 2003-04 – Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.

Vieira was also nominated by Robin van Persie, whose family filmed him getting a soaking from his children courtesy of Dutch teammate Nigel Jong. Such has been the success of the Challenge that Forbes reported earlier in the week that that ALS Association has raised $15.6 million on the back of the bucket fun, nine times what it normally raises in the same period.

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