By Kitinan Sanguansak
A host of former football stars led by Italy's World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro will grace Bangkok in December when the inaugural Global Legends Series (GLS) match kicks off in Thai capital.
The Legends Series brings together an elite group of greats who wowed the world during stellar careers for a competition that aims to revitalise the Asian football scene.
Participants in the glamour fixture are all veterans of the World Cup or Uefa Champions League or Ballon d’Or winners.
Former Portugal and Real Madrid maestro Luis Figo, ex-Liverpool duo Steve McManaman and Michel Owen and Cannavaro’s compatriot, Alessandro Nesta, are among names sure to capture fans’ imagination when they return to the field at Rajamangala National Stadium on December 5.
Former Italy defender Cannavaro, the co-founder of GLS, told a press conference at AFC headquarters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the key element of the project was charity.
“When I think of the game, I need something different. First, I want to see Patrick [Kluivert] and Michael [Owen] stay fit. That’s very important,” the Italian quipped, referring to the other two former stars, Dutch international striker Patrick Kluivert and Liverpool hitman Owen, who joined him on the stage.
“The second for me, I think we need charity. We want to do charity work here in Asia because we know that some don’t have good lives here. It’s important for us, for Asia, that the emphasis is on charity. Lastly, it’s not just because I want to come to Asia … I think Asia is the present and future of football. I trust that people here have a lot of passion.”
The 34-year-old Owen said he was eager to return to action in front of adoring fans across Asia when the four-game series begins in Thailand, before moving to China, Japan and Malaysia next year.
“I first heard about the GLS project a few months ago when Fabio presented me with the idea. It really captured my imagination. Once you retire from professional football you still miss playing the occasional match.
“It’s great to play captivating football, play against great players. It’s really exciting to get my boots on again. But the beautiful part of being involved in the project is to leave a legacy – coaching, orphan scholarship – for people in the area where we’re going to play. That’s a huge part for me,” said the Englishman.
Bee Taechaubol, CEO of Thai Prime, GLS’s exclusive partner in Asia, said he did not see the project as just an exhibition match but an inspiring occasion for the younger generation.
“I am pleased to be a strategic partner with GLS in jointly creating an inspiration for the audience, particularly with the aim of helping Asia’s youth to achieve their dreams, using these superstar footballers as an example of not giving up before reaching their goals.
“The Global Legends are a perfect example of striving for one’s dreams and achieving success on a global level. We are also very proud that Thailand has been chosen to host the first match of this legendary football event, bringing unprecedented levels of excitement to football fans across the region and the world.
“We are confident that the tremendous response from a multitude of football fans will both herald a successful event and create inspiration for the young people of Thailand and future host countries,” said Bee.