An amazing collection of footballing icons were in Zurich on 9 January to participate in festivities surrounding this evening’s The Best FIFA Football Awards™, including a FIFA Legends match on Monday morning. Split into four teams, the Legends – featuring the likes of Diego Maradona, Carles Puyol, Carli Lloyd, and many others – joined FIFA President Gianni Infantino and members of the FIFA Council, who are meeting on the 9th and 10th at the Home of FIFA, for a small-sided round-robin tournament.
There was friendly banter and surprising skills all around, with El Pibe keeping team-mates and competitors alike on their toes. The 1986 FIFA World Cup™ winner mock-scolded Italian goalkeeper Francesco Toldo after allowing a long-range goal from Michel Salgado, and after the match he warned Frenchman David Trezeguet, himself a World Cup winner in 1998, not to expect such mercy next time.
While admitting he liked either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to win the award for The Best FIFA Men’s Player this evening, Maradona said matches like this were important for the footballing community. “It is an important part of FIFA coming together with the people and players, which is a big part of what Infantino is trying to do.”
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) January 9, 2017
Begun in 2016, the FIFA Legends Program is designed to bring together former top players from men’s and women’s football to promote and support the beautiful game and its wider mission around the world. Along with the match, several of them will be speaking with media ahead of The Best awards show and some will be on stage for the event itself.
Enjoying the match, looking to The Best
South Africa's Lucas Radebe echoed the sentiments of most of the players about the chance to play with the likes of Maradona, saying: "It was a great honour to play alongside some of the greats of football. You can see the touch is still there, they never lose it. It was all about having fun and a good get-together through FIFA, which is absolutely great. That’s what football is supposed to be."
Trinidad and Tobago forward Dwight Yorke expressed the mood in the locker room. "It’s a clear message that we’re bringing football back to FIFA. That’s why we’re here today, to support the President and make sure that football is in the right hands. This is a new FIFA going forwards, and we’re here to try and support it in a positive way.
"I’m really looking forward to the FIFA Football Awards. It’s a great honour to be part of it, give my support to the awards and watch it all unfold. It’ll be a special night."
“It was great fun, even though I stopped counting how many goals we gave up,” said three-time FIFA World Cup veteran Gabriel Batistuta of Argentina with a laugh afterwards. "It was a very nice thing to meet everyone from different places and times. We should do this sort of thing more often."
FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura watched from the sidelines in the cold along with gathered media. “[The Legends] is an excellent initiative because it shows how FIFA is trying to put football at the centre of importance,” she said. “And it proves how much the former players want to help out. I am especially happy they are mixed teams because the presence of women sets the tone for the push for gender quality. I am impressed.”
Also in attendance were 10 winners from competitions on FIFA’s Digital platforms, who came from all around the globe to attend The Best awards. Milan Bosnjak, an 18-year-old FIFA.com trivia winner from Sydney took a 22-hour flight to be in Zurich, and he was thrilled by the extra chance to see the Legends. "It’s been absolutely amazing... A once in a lifetime opportunity, and I’ve been really happy seeing Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Diego Maradona. The experience overall has been incredible."