French star Zinedine Zidane praised Asian football's "big step forward" on Saturday when he dazzled more than 10,000 fans at a charity match in northern Thailand.
Zidane said players like Japan's Shunsuke Nakamura, who has high praise with Scottish league leaders Celtic, were helping to inspire a generation.
"Asian football is in the process of making a big step forward," Zidane said before taking the field with two teams of Southeast Asian players. "When you see players like Nakamura who are playing in Europe ... they are bringing something positive to Asian football. It is also good for future players who are here among us today, who could make this step forward and play in a big European team."
Crowds of supporters queued for hours to see the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year perform, while scores of fans without tickets lingered outside. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch a superstar," enthused nursing student Tirada Haengkoat, 20, who had queued for hours for a ticket.