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FIFA Confederations Cup

Ronaldinho to root for Russia after being warmly received

(FIFA.com)
Ronaldinho runs with the ball during legends match in Saint Petersburg
© LOC
  • FIFA Confederations Cup Park opened in Saint Petersburg this weekend
  • FIFA Legends took on former Russian internationals in a memorable six-a-side game
  • Tickets to the Tournament of Champions are available on FIFA.com/tickets

On 20 and 21 May, the FIFA Confederations Cup Park opened  in Saint Petersburg, the main host city of the upcoming Tournament of Champions where the Opening Match and Final are to be staged later this summer. Governor of Saint Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko and legendary Brazilian forward Ronaldinho, who won both the FIFA World Cup™ and the FIFA Confederations Cup in his career, opened the park on Konyushennaya Square.

Following the opening ceremony, Ronaldinho was whisked off to another important destination, the FIFA Venue Ticketing Centre, where ticket sales are in full flow ahead of the tournament and where fans can pick up tickets bought online at FIFA.com/tickets.

“I really liked the ticketing centre, it was very well organised,” said Ronaldinho. “Anyone who hasn’t yet bought tickets to the Confederations Cup has a great chance to do that here.”

For the fans who decided to get their coveted tickets on Saturday afternoon, turning up to find a world-famous football star waiting for them was a staggering surprise. Kirill, for example, was there to print off his ticket for the Opening Match and bumped into his favourite footballer, someone he could never have dreamed of meeting.

“Ronaldinho is my hero from childhood!” said Kirill in amazement. “To me, he’s a footballing god. He had more talent than any other modern footballer. Can you imagine what it means for me to shake his hand and get his autograph? I have also already bought my ticket to the Confederations Cup Final. I’m very pleased and advise everyone to do the same!”

Momentos que o futebol nos dá!! A Rússia é um grande país apaixonado por futebol!! #ConfedCup #SaintPetersburg ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/WztfAfwMnr

— Ronaldinho Gaúcho (@10Ronaldinho) May 21, 2017

Legends match delights all                    
The Confederations Cup Park was packed full of superstars on the second day. Argentinian former playmaker Pablo Aimar was handed an especially important task: standing alongside the Russia 2018 Official Mascot Zabivaka, the  Confederations Cup 2005 runner-up handed out medals of honour to the children who will be accompanying the players onto the pitch this summer as part of the “Going to the FIFA Confederations Cup together with McDonald’s” programme.

 “This is an amazing city,” said Aimar about Saint Petersburg. “I’m sure it will put on a fantastic tournament. It’s a shame Argentina didn’t make it to the Confederations Cup, but we’ll qualify for the FIFA World Cup and come here in a year’s time.”

The visitors to the park who tried their luck at the competitions and attractions were in with a chance of winning tickets to Confederations Cup matches, including to the Final in Saint Petersburg on 2 July, but for those who were not so fortunate, there was no need to be disappointed. Tickets are still available at FIFA.com/tickets and at the FIFA Venue Ticketing Centres in all four Host Cities, and volunteers were on hand to offer help and advice with their ticket purchases. 

Former goalkeeper Vitor Baia was doubly delighted to visit Russia, since his country will be aiming to lift the trophy here in a few weeks’ time. “Portugal are the favourites for the Confederations Cup,” he said confidently. “We won EURO 2016 and need to lay a marker down; this is the first opportunity for us to do so. My generation may have been better individually but the current Portugal team have great team spirit, a coach capable of conveying his ideas to the players and a strong leader in Cristiano Ronaldo.”

The six-a-side game between FIFA and Russia legends at the Confederations Cup Park created a huge buzz. Apart from Ronaldinho, Aimar and Baia, the other former stars that made up the legends team were ex-Australia forward Harry Kewell, French FIFA World Cup-winner Marcel Desailly and Nigerian Olympic gold medallist Jay-Jay Okocha. Facing them was a stellar cast of Russian national team players from the recent past: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Dmitri Sennikov, Aleksandr Mostovoi, Vladislav Radimov, Dmitri Sychev and Dmitri Bulykin.

The teams did not disappoint either, as spectators were treated to goals from every angle and great saves from the keepers. Every trick from Ronaldinho drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the enthralled crowd and after the match finished 9-9 in normal time, Malafeev came to the fore in the penalty shootout, saving two efforts to give his side victory. Bulykin and Okocha shared the title of leading goalscorer, but the warmest reception was reserved for special guest Ronaldinho. Shouts of “Ronny! Ronny!” peppered his farewell speech as the Brazilian promised he would return to Saint Petersburg.

“It’s always interesting to play with world-class players and the fact there were so many fans here is proof that the Confederations Cup is going to be a celebration for Saint Petersburg and Russia,” said Ronaldinho. “I saw how the fans cheered us and them on. After such a warm reception, it’s hard not to support Russia at the Confederations Cup! I’m leaving sadly, but I already want to come back!”

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