Ardrossan man set to take on former team-mate of Lionel Messi at FootGolf World Cup
Local man Rory Cassidy will be rubbing shoulders with Roberto Fabian Ayala at the FootGolf World Cup in the USA.
Argentinian Ayala – who was assistant coach of his country’s national team when they lifted the football World Cup in Dubai in December – is just one of the big names taking part in the FootGold tournament in Florida.
FootGolf is hybrid sport – a cross between football and golf – which sees players kicking full size footballs around golf courses with specially adapted holes.
Rory will face off against the top FootGolfers from across the globe during the 10-day event, which begins on Saturday, May 27.
Ayala won 115 caps for Argentina as a player, many as captain, during a 20-year career which saw him play his club football with AC Milan, Napoli, Valencia and Villarreal.
He played for Argentina at the 1998, 2002, and 2006 football World Cups, lining up alongside Messi in 2006.
He also won two La Liga titles, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with Valencia and played for Argentina at the last FootGolf World Cup, which took place in Marrakech, Morocco in 2018.
Other big names taking part in the tournament include former Leeds and Manchester United player Alan Smith, who will be part of the England squad, and ex France midfielder Camel Meriem, whose playing career included spells with Bordeaux, Monaco, Marseille and Nice, will take to the fairways for France.
Rory, meanwhile, coaches Ardrossan Winton Rovers 2016s and plays for Ayrshire FootGolf Club, which is based at Caprington Community Golf Club in Kilmarnock.
But this summer the 36-year-old will be part of the Scotland squad heading to Orlando to battle it out against teams from across the globe.
Rory qualified for the Scotland squad through his performances on the FootGolf Association of Scotland’s 2022 National Tour.
Scots have competed in previous FootGolf World Cups, as part of Team UK sides made up of players from Scotland, England and Wales.
But this is the first time Scotland will compete in the competition in its own right.
Rory says he can’t wait to make the trip over to the United States and test himself against players from other countries.
The dad-of-two said: “As well as being FootGolfers who are good enough to get into their own national side, Ayalan and the others are guys who were professional sportsmen and played at the highest level.
“They all represented their country and played for massive clubs and have experience of playing in highly competitive matches when it really, really matters.
“This is what we’ll be up against and it won’t be easy, but I can’t wait to get over there and get stuck in.
“I’m absolutely buzzing to have made the World Cup squad.
“I’ve qualified for every single Scotland squad since 2018, but this is the most important one.
“Of all the Scotland squads you want to get into, this is the one. I’ve represented Scotland in England, Wales and Ireland, but this will be the first time a Scotland squad has played competitively elsewhere.
“I’ve played against guys from other countries at tournaments in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, but this will be the biggest competition I’ve ever played in.”
Nearly 1,000 players from across the world are due to compete, and Rory says it’ll be good to see how Scotland stack up against them.
He added: “Other countries will have an advantage over us due to the heat, it’s due to be over 30 degrees, and we’re obviously not used to playing in that sort of humidity.
“The fairways are also a lot faster than we are used to because of the heat and how dry it is, whereas a lot of times we play it’s quite wet and windy.
“But we get there a few days before the tournament starts so hopefully that gives us time to acclimatise and allow us to play to our best.
“No matter how we get on I’m sure it’ll be a great experience and a story to tell.
“The competition is being filmed and broadcast so anyone back home who wants to watch can tune in.”
Rory is also still on the hunt for sponsors to help with the cost of the trip, which will see him and his teammates facing the likes of Brazil, Portugal, France and Spain.
The 10-day event features team and individual competitions and involves teams from North and South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
As well as Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Holland, Turkey and the USA, Germany, Mexico, China, Japan and Australia are in the competition.
You can reach out to Rory via his social media page: facebook.com/rory.cassidy.18.