The CSKA Stadium provided the setting for the FIFA Legends Football Tournament, an event that is becoming something of a tradition in the lead-up to the FIFA Congress.
Following the host side’s victory in Bahrain last year, it was Team CAF, captained by Kalusha Bwalya, who took the honours on this occasion after beating Team OFC on penalties.
Eight teams took part in the competition, representing FIFA, Russia and the six confederations. Figuring among the players was FIFA President Gianni Infantino, members of the FIFA Council, delegates of the member associations taking part in the 68th FIFA Congress, and a sizeable contingent of FIFA Legends.
“You can see how much we’re enjoying it. It’s a great idea by FIFA to organise events like this, to bring the most prominent members of the football world together, whether they’re ex-players or administrators. It’s important to get all these people in the same place,” said former Cameroon international Geremi Njitab, who played at Korea/Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010, as he celebrated his team’s victory.
“I never played the game, but it’s wonderful to be in such an amazing stadium and share such a fun experience with members of all the confederations and people from the FIFA Council,” said Maria Sol Munoz of Ecuador, who sits on the FIFA Council. “It’s motivating and a good way to lead up to the World Cup. The atmosphere is really starting to build and you can feel that there’s more of a party spirit around.”
Among those on duty were Diego Milito, Jorge Campos, Dejan Stankovic, Valeri Karpin, Nourredine Naybet and Celia Sasic, who were all delighted to catch up with good friends, with ex-Argentina striker Milito commenting: “It’s tough to play again after spending time away, but it’s great to share experiences like this. The atmosphere is amazing.”
Rubbing shoulders with the veterans was Marina Fedorova, a member of Russia’s women’s national team, who was delighted to share the pitch with her idols. “I’m very grateful to FIFA for the opportunity to play with such great Russian players as Karpin and [Alexey] Smertin,” said the 21-year-old. “I also met Luis Figo, another of my heroes.”
“At events like this, you really feel a sense of the togetherness and diversity that are part and parcel of football. We’re celebrating the sport that the whole world loves and it’s a great way to start the World Cup,” said former player turned coach Clarence Seedorf, who also spoke of the responsibility that falls on the participants in initiatives such as this: “Football has a very important role to play in society and we have to know how to harness that responsibility. We have to use football and ensure it has a major social impact, that it transmits values.”