"How much money is in that room now?" says one onlooker nodding his head to where many of the world's best footballers are sat. Inside, almost $1billion worth of talent are sipping coffee, nibbling biscuits and, in various languages, chatting about what footballers chat about, before taking part in the FIFA/UEFA Tsunami Solidarity Match on 15 February. No expense has been spared to gather the best together because, in a true showing of brotherliness among the football world, there are no expenses - the players and clubs have lent their services free of charge.
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The arrival (14 Monday night to 15 Tuesday 17:30)
Word of where the star-studded teams of Ronaldinho and Shevchenko are staying has finally escaped and the once airy lobby of the Hilton Hotel Diagonal Barcelona is suddenly teaming with reporters, TV cameramen, young fans waving digital cameras and a steady trickle of heavily made up ladies light on clothes. It is not difficult to guess when a player arrives as a mass scrum ensues to see who it is, grab a word or snap a pic. The boyish charm of AC Milan's Brazilian ace Kaka is a particular favourite.
The signing (17:30)
Away from the clicks and the calls, the sight of blue and red shirts laid out next to each other greets the players as they descend two floors for the pre-match bite. Pen in hand, first USA's DaMarcus Beasley and lastly Spain's Raul Gonzalez wade their way through the cotton, marking their stamp on the jerseys. Now complete with 40 signatures of the finest footballers on the planet, they will be auctioned for more charity money.
The pre-match meal (18:00)
Nothing too heavy - sandwiches, cucumber if you will. Perched around half a dozen huge, perfectly round tables are a collection of the best footballers ever to be assembled in one room. Some bearing jewellery dazzling to the eye, others revealing tattoos under designer jeans. Sporting his trademark cap worn back to front, there is FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, chatting in Portuguese to Deco on one side and French to Giuly on the other. Across the table sits the sleek figure of an affable Thierry Henry, who has just been joined by David Beckham, wearing a blue-striped suit and cream-coloured scarf that he does not remove throughout the buffet. Milan's Brazilian crew, Dida, Cafu and Kaka, just arrived from Ronaldo's wedding in Paris, go from table to table embracing their fellow pros. And European Player of the Year Andriy Shevchenko, elegantly attired with clothes the snobbiest Milanese would be hard to find fault with, casually swaps words with Alessandro Del Piero and Gianfranco Zola, whose son Andrea is collecting autographs.
FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has kept a low profile, but enters the room now to thank the players for coming. Standing in the middle of the room and brandishing a twin black-and-white armband, he asks for them to maintain the fight against racism, saluting Henry for his ambassadorial role.
It's the turn of the coaches to do their work. Ushered into a small conference room, the European team players face the impressive figures of Paul Newman double Marcello Lippi and the tall, thin Arsene Wenger. It's the Frenchman who plays the joker though as he purposely mistranslates Lippi's Italian to laughs: "We are here for charity so every bad pass and you must pay 5,000 Euros". Then, "if we win it's my fault, if we lose it's his." Eventually Zola's expert bilingual skills are called into action for the straight man to get his message across. "Enjoy yourself as it's for a good cause but we are here to win. That's why you are here because you are winners."
Meanwhile in another room, things are a bit more serious under world stars' coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who explains to Kaka in detail how he wants him to play behind the front men.
Posing and pictures (19:30)
Despite culture and language barriers, by greeting one another as old friends, the players have already revealed there are few personal rivalries and petty jealousies in the modern game. With its ever increasing popularity, a bond, almost a protective union, has been formed by top footballers who, with a private life constantly being invaded, have few options with whom to speak openly.
Something players are used to, there is a bit of a wait before the bus departs for the Nou Camp. Hardly out of their pockets, the mobiles, fat, thin and of differing colours, are out again as whispered words escape into the air. Espanyol's Cameroon keeper Idriss Kameni swaps a number with Samuel Eto'o, while Real Madrid guardian Iker Casillas and captain Raul joke around providing Beckham with rudimentary Spanish. The special occasion means players have brought their own boots and wash items, and Steven Gerrard's "soap" turns out to be a bag stuffed with the latest products in men's hygiene. Security has been tight up to now but hotel staff, girls first, men next, cannot resist the chance of a photo with the superstars.
On the buses (19:45)
Though the two captains have gone on ahead for a pre-match press conference, a police escort leads the Ronaldinho XI and Shevchenko XI buses the short distance to the Nou Camp, scene of the night's football action. Scores of digital cameras are pressed up to the windows as the buses exit the hotel and the flashes temporarily bathe the players in light. A smile from Francesco Toldo, a thumbs up from Paolo Montero and the bus is on its way through the streets and ramblas of Barcelona.
The match (21:00)
"With so many great names, who will take the free kicks?" A TV reporter asks Beckham by a cold and windy pitchside. No need to worry, nobody among an enthusiastic crowd can remember a single one during the match- though later in the hotel referee Pierluigi Collina insists that there were two.
After a minute's silence around the center circle in memory of the tsunami victims, the world stars, including the home-based trio Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto'o set off like a train, racing into a 3-1 lead at half-time with the newly crowned African Player of the Year bagging a celebratory brace. Shevchenko's Europeans come back strongly after the break with Zola levelling things with a typically cheeky lob. But while the fans were enjoying themselves with a Mexican wave, a cameo role by Senegal and Southampton's Henry Camara helps Ronaldinho's XI to an entertaining 6-3 victory.
Home and banked
The sight of the little figure of Zola is lost as an excited crowd closes around him outside the stadium. But there he is still wearing a wide smile and now aided by a burly security guard, he's the last to skip on the bus for the journey back. A decent crowd, television coverage in close to 150 countries and soon near to $10 million banked for the FIFA/AFC Tsunami Solidarity Fund. All in all, not a bad day's work.