Football takes centre stage in Bahrain
10 May 2017
- FIFA Legends take to the pitch for training, mini-tournament
- Bahrain FA team takes the spoils at National Stadium
- Member Associations, Confederations in Manama for meetings
The day between the FIFA Council and Congress in Bahrain focused on the FIFA Legends, who took time out of their schedules to join a grassroots event for local children and play in a small, feel-good tournament made up of teams from FIFA, the six confederations and the Bahrain Football Association.
Following a 'think tank' with FIFA President Gianni Infantino and a media session in which select Legends answered questions and gave their thoughts from the gathered press, footballing icons Ronaldinho, Pablo Aimar, Cafu, Karina LeBlanc and Nia Kunzer ran through drills with the gathered youngsters on the Bahrain National Stadium pitch.
“[The grassroots training] was a very positive experience especially because it was not only the male legends but women as well, and I think that was a good thing for the Bahraini kids to see,” said Kunzer. “It’s important that they see us at the same level as the men, and of course it is always great fun to play with the kids.”
Where the message meets the sport
After that warm-up, the eight squads split into two groups under a full moon and turned on the effort and the skills for the watching crowd and media. Not only was it a chance to see the likes of Diego Maradona, David Trezeguet and Jay Jay Okocha up close and personal, but the larger message of FIFA’s focus on football and inclusion was on the front of everyone’s mind.
"Men, women, legends, all confederations, all of us on a football pitch. That’s the message: football unites people," said former Real Madrid and Spain international Michel Salgado, who played on the AFC team. “We are here to unite and play against racism, discrimination and in favour of women’s football. Those are the messages.”
In the end, it was the host Bahraini team, their local legend Talal Youssef along with Aimar and Alexei Smertin who were handed the trophy by Infantino in their capital city after beating the UEFA team 3-0 in the final. The team from CAF took the bronze medal on penalties.
The happiness on the faces of the Legends capped off the eventful day. “This is the best day for me, being able to play football again like this. For those of us who made their living in football, there is nothing better,” said Zvonimir Boban, former AC Milan and Croatia star and current FIFA Deputy Secretary General.
“It has been a great week so far," said Boban. "We have the Congress still, but we must remember that it is all about football: the ball rolling on the green pitch."