Dubai: Some of the greatest footballers were on show for the Friends of Libya’s Children exhibition match that brought in nearly 5,000 spectators at the Al Ahli Club late on Tuesday.
Watched by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional Council of Libya, the match witnessed the stars of yesteryears at their best: a clever feint here, a twist there, a quick change of pace, a defence-splitting pass as the crowd lapped it all up.
The Coca Cola team led by organiser former Libyan player Jihad Mountessir had Javier Zanetti, Robert Pires, Marco Materazzi, Pavel Nedved, Jan Kohler and Walter Zenga on the bench as coach, while the ADIB team had Hidetoshi Nakata, Hadji Diouf, Luis Jimenez, Fabio Cannavaro, Nicky Butt and Hernan Crespo while Marcelo Lippi sat in as coach.
With the crowd backing them, it was the ADIB team taking the lead in the eighth minute after Al Ahli’s Chilean player Luis Jimenez placed past Sameer Aboud on the Coca Cola goal.
However, the Coca Cola team hit back with vengeance as Algerian legend Rabah Madjer, formerly with Portuguese side Porto FC, drew level in the tenth minute when he nodded in a cross from Nedved and eight minutes later, Czech national teammates Kohler and Nedved combined to make it 2-1. It became 3-1 in the 20th minute when Nedved changed flanks to catch the ADIB defence napping as lanky Libyan striker Zuwei darted in to score.
Kohler got his second of the night in the 24th minute after receiving a clever ball from Nedved to make it 4-1 for Walter Zenga’s Coca Cola side. Hernan Crespo rifled one in the 27th to pull one back for ADIB, only to see Madjer score his second on the half-hour mark and make it 5-2.
Former Getafe midfielder Ruben de la Red placed past Sameer Aboud to pull a third one for ADIB, but Pires tapped in the easiest of goals on the half-time whistle after receiving from Kohler as the players trooped off for the break with Coca Cola in control 6-3.
There were four goals in the second half: Crespo making it 6-4 for the ADIB team two minutes after a lengthy re-start and Zuwei adding to the tally for Coca cola with three minutes left and de la red getting a second on the night, while Zuwei deservingly got his hat-trick as the score read 8-5 in favour of the Coca Cola team.
“The goal of the match was to raise funds that can be quickly transferred to assist children in Libya. Our hope is to positively impact the situation by providing medical assistance to kids and to provide them basic needs such as shelter and bare necessities for survival,” said organiser Jihad Mountessir, a former Libyan national team player and presently employed as a consultant with Al Ahli.
The Friends of Libya’s Children exhibition match was supported by Save the Children, Red Crescent UAE, ADIB, Coca Cola, AGMC, Emaar, Emirates Libyan Investment, Drake & Scull, Al Ahli Club and Dubai Sports Council.
In the end, the score really did not matter as the children from Libya were the real winners.