DUBAI // Fabio Cannavaro, captain of the Pro League club Al Ahli, gave some of the emirate's orphans an unexpected surprise this week as he joined them in a group drumming session.
The Italian, 36, who led his national team to World Cup victory in 2006, was the celebrity guest at an Eid al Adha festival organised by students at the American University of Dubai on Monday.
Cannavaro, who played for Real Madrid and Juventus and has 132 caps for his country, joined Al Ahli in June on a two-year contract, but it was not his ball skills which were put to the test at the university.
As soon as he arrived, he took part in a performance by the African drumming troupe Dubai Drums along with 40 orphans from the Beit Al Kheir charitable institution in Dubai, which is part of the Maktoum Foundation, and students from the university.
The children and students were captivated by the famous defender, who in spite of his minimal English said he was "happy to be here" and smiled throughout the show.
Mohammed al Nuaimi, 13, said: "He is the best player in the world. It's very exciting we have someone so famous here in Dubai."
It was not only the orphans who were excited to see the footballing star.
Latifa al Maktoum, 14, insisted on joining her 18-year-old sister Mariam, a student at the university, just to see her hero.
"He's an amazing player. I love the way he plays," she said. "I wasn't a fan of Al Ahli before, but I have to be now."
Eid is a time for giving and Abdullah al Nuaimi, a final-year finance student in the university's Khaleeji Club who organised the event, said that this year they wanted to go a step further.
"This year for Eid, we didn't just want to give money to the orphans, we wanted to give them a chance to see one of their heroes in Dubai," he said. "Cannavaro is a good role model for the children in both his professional and private life."
Ahmed Khoory, the president of the club, said: "This day is our gift to the children, the entertainment, the food and the gifts. We wanted to do this for them for Eid."