IT was the game you could argue nobody wanted to win.
Two teams brought together, united in their affection for former team-mate and friend Calum Riddell; nobody deserved to come out of this day a loser.
A bumper crowd, turned out to remember a firm favourite, who tragically lost his battle with a brain tumour a week ago, aged just 28.
In some ways, this was the perfect way to remember Calum. His Nairn team-mates took on an All Stars side picked by the man himself weeks in advance of this game. As Wee County boss Ronnie Sharp said last week, it was a fitting way to commemorate Calum’s life, doing something that he loved.
It was an afternoon filled with touching moments. Calum’s wife Rebekah was in attendance and pictured with both teams before the game. Several members of her family – the Morgantis – were in the All Stars side, including her brother Jason, a team-mate of Calum’s up until the end of last season.
The game was special enough for Sharp himself to don the boots and the number 23 shirt, revelling in a 20-minute cameo with players he usually barks instructions at.
Nairn opened the scoring through Jordan MacRae, after Dylan MacKenzie had seen his initial effort blocked on the line. Ross Naismith saw a shot kept out by Callum Donaldson, before rattling the outside of the post.
Dale Gillespie showed touches of class for the All Stars and had an offside goal chalked off. Wayne MacKintosh, who left Nairn for Formartine United in the summer, lost none of his competitive edge, throwing himself into tackles and remonstrating with the officials.
The All Stars team also included Paul Macleod, who moved to Rothes from Nairn in the summer, and was best man at Calum’s wedding to Rebekah. He struggled with injury but battled on, determined not to let Calum down.
A deserving equaliser finally came in the 78th minute, as MacKintosh hung a cross up to the back post that towering centre-back Jason Duncan diverted back across goal. The ball looked to be looping just inside the post but Gordon Haines made sure on the slide.
With full-time approaching, announcer Ian Finlayson declared the man-of-the-match as Calum Riddell. Players paused as those around the ground rose to their feet, applauding one final time.
Donations were collected at the gate and there is sure to be a bumper addition to the Calum Riddell Fund. Nairn chairman Donald Matheson said: “It was a fitting tribute to a good guy. He will be very sorely missed at Station Park and on a personal level, I truly appreciate the huge turnout for Calum, Rebekah and the family.”
The afternoon was a chance for old friends and familiar faces to remember a son, husband, best friend and team-mate in a way he would have approved of. I am sure, somewhere, he will have been giving his old pals pelters.
Callum Riddell All Stars: Callum Donaldson, Paul Morganti, Lee Haines, Scott Hendry, Jason Duncan, Wayne MacKintosh, Paul Macleod, Dale Gillespie, Jason Robertson, Robbie Duncanson, Jason Morganti, Robert Donaldson, Martyn Brown, David Green, Graeme Kennedy, Dominic Morganti, Gordon Haines, Sam Walker, David Allan, Ross MacKenzie, Stuart Finnie.
Nairn County: Dylan MacLean, Jack MacLean, Kenny McKenzie, Adam Naismith, Glenn Main, Adam Porritt, Ross Naismith, Jordan MacRae, Gary Kerr, Gregg Main, Dylan MacKenzie, Callum Ednie, Max Ewan, Ewen Urquhart, Cohen Ramsay, Craig Munro, Matty MacLeod, Callum MacLean, Ryan MacLeod, Ronnie Sharp, Stephen Foster.