Some of the world’s finest-ever footballers and managers descended on Dubai on Sunday night for Hublot’s latest Match of Friendship.
In front of the iconic Burj Khalifa, teams led by Brazil legend Pele – arguably the game’s all-time-best practitioner – and Italy’s respected World Cup 2006 winner Marcello Lippi enjoyed a thrilling 11-11 draw on a specially constructed four-a-side pitch. This followed a similar star-studded event in Zurich, Switzerland last month held by Russia 2018’s official timekeeper.
Several hundred guests and spectators at Dubai Opera’s bucolic sky garden were treated to clashes between France World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000 champions Marcel Desailly and Christian Karembeu. This pair were added to by a trio of Lippi’s triumphant global charges from eight years later – Gianluca Zambrotta, Marco Amelia and Marco Materazzi.
Other modern greats included giant ex-AC Milan and Brazil goalkeeper Dida, regular club-mate Serginho, Republic of Ireland record goal scorer Robbie Keane, Real Madrid and Spain stalwart Michel Salgado plus Shabab Al Ahli Dubai Club and UAE battler Majed Hassan.
But the loudest cheers of the evening came when the feted Pele was introduced to the crowd. The 77-year-old with more than 1,000 career goals, plus winner’s medals at the 1958, 1962 and 1970 World Cups, was happy to be in Dubai.
He said: “This is the third or fourth time that I have been to Dubai. I have made some friends here and I feel good.
“Now, I had an opportunity to come with Hublot because we are on the same team now. This is good for me.”
With 60 days to go before the first match of World Cup 2018 kicks off between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, Hublot brought together friends of the brand to celebrate the beautiful game.
Dubai-resident Salgado, 42, was one of these.
He played 341 times for Los Blancos from 1999-2009, also earning 53 caps for his nation. Yet this special event was one to savour even for such a storied person.
“The atmosphere was amazing, the place to do an event like this with Hublot, bringing together Lippi and Pele – one of the best coaches ever and also one of my idols when I was a kid – was such a great moment for me,” he said.
The action itself was hotly contested as many of the fiercest competitors from the past 20 years brushed off the cobwebs caused by retirement. The setting was also lauded by Dida, who won 92 caps for Brazil and spent a decade at Milan from 2000-2010.
“It is beautiful to be here,” the 44-year-old said. “Dubai is incredible.
“The city has changed so much since I was last here five years ago. It was very emotional and special to me.”
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