It was the chance of a lifetime for Justin Bennett of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, who had an opportunity to take on the Red Bulls’ star forward Thierry Henry in a series of one-on-one competitions Monday, Oct. 10, at Red Bull Arena.
The two contestants met face to face on the pitch prior to the series of contests and trials. Bennett received the honor of playing against Henry after he was named the winner of Red Bull Ultimate on Sept. 28. His skill-fused video entry received the most online votes out of the large batch of applicants.
Between juggling and crossbar shooting, the challenge already encompassed a series of tests to gauge ball control and accuracy. But nothing tested the competitors more than the “red seat challenge;” a contest to see who could hit the lone red seat behind the south goal.
“The red chair thing was a little hard for me because I usually aim for the goal,” Bennett joked in the post-challenge locker room. “I get yelled at if I hit chairs.”
While neither was dubbed the clear-cut winner on the day, Henry displayed breathtaking skills on the ball and pinpoint accuracy during the "red seat challenge," while Bennett showed off his touch with six hits off the post. But despite the challenges, the Red Bulls captain believes there was more to it than just the competition on the pitch.
“I think that, hopefully, he will remember more the talking part than anything else,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong; we had to challenge over there and battle against each other, but at the end of the day it’s about meeting someone and knowing them a bit.”
Even though they spent an hour together on the pitch, it’s safe to say the reality of the situation may take a while to set in for Bennett.
"I still can’t believe I’m sitting next to Thierry Henry,” he said in the locker room. “He’s been great; everybody’s been great. I really appreciate everything. It’s truly a dream come true.”