It was a surreal moment watching Sergio Aguero, James Horsfield, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samir Nasri and Nicolas Otamendi ascend the steps of the Great Wall of China on Sunday afternoon.
Dressed in the new home and away kits, their progress up arguably the most famous man-made construct on the planet was only slowed by a series of selfies and panoramas on their phones – their open-mouthed smiles conveying that they were as excited to be there as we were.
It had been a long while in the making…
Flashback to earlier in 2016, to a meeting room at City Football Academy - back to the Content Team’s first creative meeting for the China tour where these words were first given oxygen.
“Let’s get them to play football on the Great Wall of China…”
Getting a group of professional footballers to kick footballs on a wall sounds simple enough in theory but in practice, trying to plan for a shoot at such an iconic landmark on the other side of the world is anything but.
However, after all the permits were acquired and the players agreed to the idea, we had the go-ahead and made for the Wall on Sunday afternoon.
Of course we had to test the court out first... someone had to!
The swarm of dragonflies hovering above the court we set up were apparently an ominous sign – according to one of the local freelance cameramen drafted in to help, this signposted an incoming storm…
Contingency plans were hastily drawn up in the event of poor weather but fortunately we would not need our Plans B, C or D.
The players descended upon the wall five minutes early which got us off to a good start and upon arrival their first job was to take part in the Nike photoshoot for the new away kit we launched officially here in Beijing.
Once that was boxed off, it was game-time with the players split into teams of two: Kelechi Iheanacho and Sergio Aguero (away kits) versus Samir Nasri and James Horsfield (home).
No pressure, Horsy!
Rather than take part, Nicolas Otamendi decided to take up a role as mischief-maker next to the umpire, making it his business to distract his pal Kun at every available opportunity.
As you can see from the video, the head tennis match was played in a highly competitive spirit but from the first point on, there was only ever going to be one winner.
Horsfield truly rose to the occasion in tandem with Nasri to take a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Blues, as well as the bragging rights over the striking duo – there were just one or two scary moments for us when the ball went flying off the edge of the wall and down a 40-foot drop.
For just a split second, you could see, kicking in, the kind of competitive spirit required to be a Premier League footballer – the sort of competitive spirit that makes you go for an impossible ball – the type of competitive spirit that sends you over the edge of the Great Wall of China!
Thankfully, the players chamfered down those iron wills of theirs just enough to keep them on the right side of the Wall…
Pure adrenaline was coursing through the veins of everyone involved with the shoot throughout, meaning it was only really after the players had left, when we were packing up that we could breathe and reflect.
It was then we took in our surrounds fully and appreciated how the hard work of so many had enabled “let’s get them to play football on the Great Wall of China…”to go from dream to reality.
Then, just before any further naval gazing could occur, that storm the dragonflies promised finally landed and a soggy sprint down the steps and onto the minibus ensued.
What an experience – we hope you enjoy the video! Watch it here.