Football legends hold charity match for injured Libyan children
DUBAI // A star-studded line-up of international footballers gave fans what they wanted last night in a charity match to raise funds for children in Libya.
The All Stars Charity Football Match featured Marcello Lippi who led world-class players such as Hernan Crespo and Pavel Nedved in a party atmosphere at Al Ahli stadium in Dubai.
Lippi, the former Italian player and coach, steered his national team to win the Fifa World Cup in 2006.
"I'm here to see the stars, some good football, but most importantly the solidarity among the players and fans," said Ata Pirghoni. "We are all here to support each other and the children of Libya."
The Iranian Mr Pirghoni, 41, said he could not miss the opportunity to see the impressive line-up that included Javier Zanetti, Marco Materazzi and the 2006 Fifa World Player of the Year, Fabio Cannavaro. The remaining players were from the Al Ahli squad and the Libyan national team.
Jehad Muntasser, a former player for Libya and organiser of the event, said the money would go to the Red Crescent to help children injured in the war.
"We are here today to help and make sure these children get the care they deserve and put the smile back on their faces after the trauma they've suffered," the former Treviso midfielder said.
Cannavaro said he felt he had to help the cause.
"I am a friend of Jehad and all he had to do was talk about the game and we came to help him," he said.
Muntasser said: "We are very comfortable knowing it is going to a great organisation and we see what the children are lacking in medicine.
"Some children are badly wounded and can't get the right medicine, and some might need treatment outside Libya."
Brothers Yousef and Talal Al Amri from Saudi Arabia were wearing their favourite jerseys. Yousef, 14, wearing the Inter Milan top, wanted to see Zanetti.
"I've been to Inter Milan's stadium but this is much better," he said.
When their father heard about the game he promised to get them tickets.
"I was so happy once I heard about this and I could see some of my favourite players," Yousef added.
Talal, 12, wearing the Real Madrid jersey, said he just wanted to see a good game. "They are all world class."
Lohataksh Keswani, a student from India, was another fan of Cannavaro, who ended his football career at Al Ahli football club.
"I am here to support the charity but also to see the players," said Mr Keswani, 21.
The match kicked off at 9pm and half-time was extended by more than 45 minutes as officials announced they were expecting the arrival of Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of state in Libya's caretaker government and chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC).
Hundreds of Libyans, some of whom were draped in the country's colours, cheered and chanted as Mr Jalil made his way down to the football pitch when he eventually arrived.
He made a short speech from the centre of the pitch after a fan draped the new flag around him. The chairman of the interim government thanked the whole of the UAE for their help and all the Libyan community.
The Al Wasl football club coach Diego Maradona left some fans disappointed after failing to appear on the pitch at the start of the game.
Mr Keswani said he was disappointed but the other players, such as Hidetoshi Nakata from Japan and the former England player Nicky Butt made up for it.
"In the UAE we get to see some class acts. Last year I went to see Brazil play in Abu Dhabi," he said.
The UAE played a high-profile role during the fighting in Libya, with officials from the NTC using the country as a base to raise funds and awareness about their cause. It also set up several refugee camps on the borders of Egypt and Tunisia to provide humanitarian aid to thousands of people fleeing the violence.
Monetary support for the then rebel government was promised at a meeting of the Libya Contact Group in Abu Dhabi in June, at which time billions of dollars of assets belonging to the regime of the former leader Col Muammar Qaddafi were frozen. Countries including Kuwait, Turkey and Qatar pledged donations at the meeting.