A legend in his native Brazil, Zico is no less revered in Japan where he brought an end to his playing days and began his coaching career. In fact, it would be fair to say the affection is mutual. As the Asian nation continues to recover from the tragic events of last month, Zico is making his contribution by helping to organise O Jogo da Solidariedade (The Solidarity Match), which will take place tomorrow evening at the Arena do Atletico Paranaense, in Curitiba.
The game will bring together some of the biggest stars in Brazilian football, among them Romario, Bebeto, Rai, Edmundo and Paulo Rink, with proceeds going to the victims of both the earthquake and devastating tsunami that struck Japan and the recent floods in the state of Parana.
The fund-raising match is the brainchild of former striker Alcindo Sartori, who hails from Parana and who played alongside Zico at Japanese club Kashima Antlers, becoming one of their greatest idols of all time.
“Alcindo called me and we spoke about what we could do to help,” Zico told FIFA.com. “I play in the All Star Game in Brazil every year, and I thought with all these problems going in Parana and people losing everything, it would be a good idea. Things just carried on from there. We got in touch with the authorities, such as the governor [Beto Richa], and the media did their bit. We also managed to get one of the World Cup stadiums and we spoke to the players.”
Zico confirmed that 10,000 tickets have already been sold, with organisers expecting to double that figure. On sale at the Arena’s ticket office between 10am and 6pm, tickets cost R$20.00 (nearly US$12.50) and are available at half price for students. Some 60 per cent of the gate money will be forwarded to the Japanese consulate in Brazil, with the remaining 40 per cent going to the government of Parana.
“It was easy to get the players together,” added Zico. “Everyone was willing to play and to do it for free. We’ve got two teams, the Friends of Japan and the Friends of Parana, and it should be great. It’s a way for the players to repay all the affection they got during their careers, and it’s great to be able to help out at difficult times like these.”