(Above) Goalmouth excitement at Seven Stories in Newcastle
The build-up to next week's World Cup 2010 kicked off in supernatural style in Newcastle today as an award-winning children's author oversaw a penalty shoot-out between footballers and fairies in between taking to the posts to save a few spot kicks himself.
Avid Leeds United fan Tom Palmer, who wrote The Football Detective and Football Academy, pulled off his best impersonation of an England goalkeeper in a crucial quarter-final as a succession of young visitors gleefully smashed balls provided by the children's story centre past their hapless victim.
Palmer says he hated reading until football stories inspired him to pick up a book at the age of 17
The humiliation was worth it for Seven Stories' guest speaker, who used sport to inspire his own love of books and has championed football as a way to persuade children to read.
"I can't think of a better place to talk about my football books the week before the World Cup starts," he explained. "I love bringing my daughter to Seven Stories, so I hope families enjoyed coming to hear me talk."
Further shoot-outs and football quizzes are planned this weekend as part of a week of fun at the centre.
Fairies were on the spot to take a few penalties
"It's been a great drop-in activity for visitors," said Events Officer Paul Black. "All our half-term events have been a huge success."
Other football-flavoured highlights this weekend include a Football Fever Trail at the Red House Glass Cone, in Wordsley near Stourbridge, which aims to put youngsters in "a winning mood" for England's campaign with national flag identifying competitions and mini football toys. There will also be self-guided tours of the site, featuring glassmaking demonstrations in a hot glass studio.
The Mansfield Museum has devoted an entire gallery to a celebration of the game, offering four table football stands, yet more penalty shoot-outs, team kit designing and a "devilishly difficult" World Cup quiz.
Football stories and fairytales runs at Seven Stories between 11.30am and 2pm on Saturday (June 5 2010). Footballers v Fairies penalty shootouts take place at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. For more on Tom Palmer, follow his blog.
Activities at the Red House Glass Cone run between 10am and 4pm until Sunday (June 6 2010), glass-blowing demonstrations 12pm-3.30pm.
Football Fever runs at the Mansfield Museum until Saturday (June 5 2010), 10am-4pm.
Follow Culture24 from Monday for our exclusive World Cup coverage featuring the best exhibitions, gems from the history of the game and a cultural look at the planet's greatest tournament.