x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Pride still a motivator for veteran stars at Dubai Indoor Championship

'When we are playing, we still want to win,' says Michael Mols as familiar faces turn out for the high-profile five-a-side football tournament.

Players representing Real Madrid, in white, and Barcelona battled to a 3-3 draw in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Players representing Real Madrid, in white, and Barcelona battled to a 3-3 draw in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // The atmosphere was nowhere near the frenzy that usually greets the players at Nou Camp or the Bernabeu when Barcelona meet Real Madrid.

The Sheikh Rashid Hall at Dubai World Trade Centre seemed ghostly in comparison, dimly lit with a few hundred fans in the makeshift stands. On the pitch, though, it was still a clasico for the players.

"This is a friendly game, but between Barcelona and Real Madrid, there are no friendly matches," said Victor Munoz, a former Barcelona great who won eight major titles with the club. "We always want to win against them."

At his prime, Munoz was known for his physical strength, for tiring out opponents in the midfield. He did the same for Spain, during a 60-game career that includes one World Cup campaign and two European Championships.

Munoz is 55 now and has certainly lost some of his pace, but he was still the midfield marshal on Sunday night as his Barcelona veterans battled against their familiar foes from Real Madrid in the opening five-a-side match of the Dubai Indoor Football Championship, an eight-team tournament finishing on Thursday.

He even scored the opening goal, but a brace by his opposite number Ivan Perez Munoz helped defending champions Real Madrid hold Munoz's side to a 3-3 draw.

"We want to win, we want to fight," Perez said after the game. "This is very important. We want to win this tournament."

Barcelona, of course, have the same goal as do the other European sides in the fray – Ajax Amsterdam and AS Roma. A UAE Stars team is also part of the competition, as well as Stars team from Egypt, Morocco and Zamalek.

The Spaniards, of course, are the favourites as they are the only team who play regularly. Back home, they have a veteran's league where all the top clubs participate. Kizito Musampa of Ajax, however, has warned them to beware of his team.

"The Spaniards, they have a competition back home so they are far ahead of us," said Musampa, who spent two seasons at Manchester City and earned 25 caps for Holland Under 21s.

"But we have a good squad and quality players as well. So we could be a surprise in this tournament.

"But it's our first time, we are happy to be here and we definitely want to show what the Dutch and what Ajax can do."

The Dutch are hurting after the disappointing performance of the national team at the European Championship, when they crashed out at the group stages. Michael Mols, a former Dutch striker, does not want to be reminded of the tournament.

"The European Championship was very disappointing," Mols said. "I have tried to forget about it, but now you have reminded me again.

"This is something different. We just want to play football, enjoy the crowds. We like to enjoy ourselves, but when we are playing, we still want to win. So while this is a friendly tournament, but we still want to win and I believe it's the same with everybody else."

Musampa also wants to forget about the European Championships and hopes some good matches here in Dubai will help.

"I think it [this tournament] is a great initiative," he said.

"It's a game that you play with a lot of passion and it comes from your heart.

"You play from your heart. That's what keeps you going when you are finished [with your career], even though sometimes you can't walk anymore [after a friendly game].

"When I don't play football for two or three weeks, my body starts feeling funny."

Damiano Tommasi, a former Italy international who appeared at the 2002 World Cup, also feels the same way about the tournament and hopes there will be more tournaments like this in Europe and in his own country.

"For us, it is a very good thing as we get to wear this Roma T-shirt one more time," he said.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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