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Veteran Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, in his third World Cup, has taken his room-mate, young ace Lionel Messi, under his wing. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Former international football stars Juan Sebastian Veron and Marco Matterazi are the latest to join the Dubai Sports Council’s (DSC) ‘Stay Fit, Stay Safe’ campaign.

Veron, who turned 45 last month, was an integral part of a Manchester United squad over two seasons (2001 to 2003). One of the most exciting and animated midfielders of his time, Veron ended his playing career spanning more than two decades with his beloved childhood club Estudiantes, in 2014.

In his 14 years with the Argentina national team, Veron was capped 73 times while scoring nine goals. “Hello everyone. I’m Juan Sebastian Veron speaking to all my friends in Dubai and the UAE,” his message says.

“It’s important, very important at this moment to stay at home and be fit and safe.”

Materazzi, who recently played and managed Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) over three seasons, has also made a similar appeal to the people of the UAE. “Hello my friends in Dubai and the UAE, I am Marco Materazzi. Remember to stay at home, stay safe and be fit,” the 46-year-old Italian says.

“I am looking forward to be back in Dubai when all this is over. Ciao.”

A controversial and provocative footballer, Materazzi was one of the key players in Italy’s triumph in the 2006 Fifa World Cup against France. He scored Italy’s goal, and later, during extra-time, he got head-butted by Zinedine Zidane as Italy went on to win the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out, during which Materazzi scored again.

Known for his very physical and aggressive style of play as a defender, Materazzi is famous for receiving as many as 60 yellow cards and 25 red cards throughout his playing career that spans nearly three decades.

Earlier this month, former football stars and ‘Golden Card’ residents Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and Nicolas Anelka had urged UAE residents to stay fit and safe as part of the DSC’s ongoing ‘Be Fit, Be Safe’ campaign during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative that is meant to encourage communities to exercise at home, has received a lot of support from all quarters with experts from the fitness industry and some of UAE’s top sports stars participating alongside mums, dads schoolkids from different nationalities.

Through the campaign, which is being run under the hashtag #DSCchallenge, the DSC is urging members of the community to be safe and avoid going out unless absolutely necessary. At the same time, the initiative is urging residents to continue exercising at home while sharing their home workout videos online, tagging @DubaiSC, to help motivate and inspire others.